May 15, 2002 11:00 pm

It was supposed to be the best political race in two decades. Six qualified candidates are vying for the top political post in Oregon, three Democrats and three Republicans. It should have added up to an electrifying primary with a high voter turnout. Instead this season's much-heralded political race has turned into a bust.

It's a disappointment that can only be matched by a failed big-budget movie. Ted Kulongoski, Jim Hill and Bev Stein are the Democratic candidates, while Ron Saxton, Kevin Mannix and Jack Roberts are their Republican counterparts.

EVEN THOUGH both primary races started out with a smattering of civility, they have degenerated into a name-calling affair that is pitting the candidates against each other based on the same old negativity that we've encountered over several decades. This is due in part to television's and radio's willingness to run any spot the candidates or their supporters are willing to pay for. And in most cases, voters beware, there is little truth being spread around.

While the various party factions are pushing their candidate and bashing the others, the plan is turning off a large independent group of voters and making many of the party faithful ready to boycott the November sweepstakes. If all this bashing isn't enough, now some of the also-rans, like Bill Sizemore and Lou Beres, chairman of the Christian Coalition's Oregon chapter, are threatening that if their candidate doesn't win, they will work for a third-party candidate. Don't these people understand that these kinds of comments only show how out of touch with the majority of Oregon voters they really are? Sizemore hasn't been able to win anything lately and Beres shouldn't be using the word "Christian" with this kind of attitude.

IT HAS BEEN SO TYPICAL of candidates like these to run around Oregon begging for every newspaper to endorse them in the primary, while spending all their money on direct mail, television, radio, cable, and lawn signs, and nothing with newspapers. Although endorsements can never be bought, it would have been good to see the campaigns spread their largess around a bit.

It would have been nice to see the candidates for governor lay out a serious platform about how Oregon should be run, talking specifically about the issues that confront us all, and we don't mean just a bunch of typical political dribble.

THEY SHOULD have focused on how Oregonians fund education, K-through-grad school, without bankrupting the general fund and wiping out important programs, or how they would increase job opportunities for the 30-plus counties around the state that aren't part of the metro area. Instead we've gotten little substance out of the six of them.

We don't advocate not voting; there are too many important local races on the ballot, but we just can't get excited about the group running for governor. So you might just put a big question mark over whichever three are in your party's race. And for all those voters registered as independents, be happy you only have to deal with two of these candidates in November.