Oregon's elections this year aren't all that exciting if you're considering federal races. President Obama is widely expected to win here without a fight, there is no senate election this year, and there is not serious opposition to any of Oregon's congressional Democrats.
You have to look at state elections (or municipal and county, even) to find more interesting stuff. Our key statewide elections will be for Secretary of State and Commissioner of Labor and Industries, which is nominally nonpartisan, but features a Republican state senator running against a Democratic incumbent and former state legislator. We also have elections for state Attorney General and Treasurer, and some important state legislative elections that, since our state house is currently deadlocked between the party at 30-30, will determine control of the legislature. Finally, Clackamas County and the City of Portland are having major local elections for County Commissioner, Mayor and City Commissioner, respectively.
Secretary of State
In Oregon's election for Secretary of State, incumbent Democrat Kate Brown has led in the only public polling of the race available, showing her leading Republican Knute Buehler, a doctor from Bend, [www.scribd.com/doc/98332830/Public-Policy-Polling-Oregon-June-2012 48-30%]. Brown began the year with about $82,000 in her campaign account, has raised about $405,000, and has about $292,000 in the bank.
Buehler has mounted a vigorous campaign, being widely visible in the press and the countryside, being the only Republican candidate in Oregon who has had signs and bumper stickers visible across the state. He's raised about $645,000 and still has about $413,000 on hand. However, I would characterize his stance in the race as arrogant, and positioning as very conservative, and those are not characteristics that I think contribute to a victorious statewide campaign for a Republican in Oregon.
Brown's victory in 2008 was one of the closest elections for statewide office in Oregon in the last decade. Her opponent, Rick Dancer, was a local news person in Eugene, and did very well in normally solidly blue Lane County (he won by about 17,500 votes while Obama won it by over 50,000). Buehler, of Bend, will not have that kind of regional advantage. His geographical base is smaller (Bend is little over half the size of Eugene) and he doesn't have the benefit of having had near daily exposure to a media market that covers nearly a sixth of the state as Dancer did. And Buehler's base is already a Republican base region. Deschutes County is the largest county by population east of the Cascades, and the second largest in the 2nd congressional district. It hasn't voted Democratic for president since 1992, when in an aberration Bill Clinton won it by 38 votes, and before that 1976,when Jimmy Carter won it with a plurality of the vote. He can only push his numbers up so much in that region, whereas Dancer had a much larger base in a region that had both strongly Republican areas, strongly Democratic areas, and swingy areas, and seriously cut into Brown's statewide performance. Brown still won, though. Its hard to see Buehler's path to victory, despite his advantage in money.
Commissioner of Labor & Industries
Incumbent Brad Avakian is a Democrat from Washington County, from Beaverton, who used to be a state representative and state senator in the same districts that Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici held. He ran in the special election to replace David Wu which Bonamici won. He's done a decent job at the position and has gotten some good press, particularly for investigating and settling a case involving a major chain of Thai restaurants that was abusing its workers. His challenger is Bruce Starr, a Republican from Washington County, from Hillsboro, who is a current state senator. Starr is mounting an aggressive campaign, and has outraised Avakian. Avakian has raised about $205,000 and has about $101,000 on hand. Starr has raised about $263,000 and has about $51,000 on hand. The only polling of the race I've seen showed Starr 1-2 points ahead (and again the same), but with so many undecideds as to make it basically a tossup.
State Attorney General and Treasurer
I think the dynamics of these races are pretty close. Democratic Treasurer Ted Wheeler is a popular incumbent who was easily elected to fill out the term of the late Ben Westlund in 2010, and faces token opposition this year from a candidate who won the Republican nomination on write-in, because nobody filed. Seeing as he, a liberal Portland Democrat (former Multnomah County Chair) won in 2010, a very Republican year, by about 150,000 votes, and won swingy Clackamas County by about 11,000, he probably will be easily re-elected. The only poll has shown him leading 46-34%. His opponent has raised under $2,400.
The Democratic Attorney General Elaine Rosenblum was appointed this summer to fill the term of John Kroger, who left on account of health concerns and to take a job at Reed College. Rosenblum is a liberal Portland Democrat, but easily dispatched her more moderate opponent in the primary. Her opponent won the Republican primary on write-in, as no one filed, and has raised only $15,000 this year, while Rosenblum raised nearly $786,000 this year and still has nearly $87,000 on hand. The only poll (linked above) showed her leading him 46-33%.
Most of the state senate districts up this year aren't competitive. Most of the swingy districts are up in midterm elections, like the gubernatorial elections in Oregon. This creates a structural disadvantage for Oregon Democrats, who usually have higher turnout in presidential years. For a more detailed and fleshed out look at the legislative races that I don't cover here, see my last diary which covered them. I won't bother looking at uncompetitive districts here.
Estimated PVI: D+2
Registration: 42% Dem, 33% Republican
Places: Coos Bay/North Bend, Reedsport, Florence, Lincoln County, southern Tillamook County, western Polk and Yamhill counties
This senate district is open thanks to Democratic incumbent Joanne Verger retiring. As a coastal district it is very ancestrally Democratic, and reliably vote for Democrats, but not by that much anymore. Democratic candidate Arnie Roblan, the Democratic Co-Speaker of the State House who represents the southern, more conservative half of the district, has raised about $151,000 and has over $43,000 on hand. His Republican opponent Scott Roberts, who was his opponent in 2010 in his state house district, has raised just over $48,000 and has less than $6,000 on hand. Given that Roblan defeated Roberts in 2010 in an R+1 district, and his massive advantage in resources, I have to think Roblan is heavily favored.
Estimated PVI: D+5
Registration: 42% Democratic, 30% Republican
Places: Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview, bits of outer east Portland.
Democratic incumbent Laurie Monnes Anderson is thought by many to be vulnerable, but this Democratic-trending district will not likely fall anytime soon, as this is an area where Democrats turn out much more in presidential years. Her opponent, Scott Hansen, has raised over $101,000, but has little more than $30,000 on hand, while Monnes Anderson started the year with $65,000, has raised over $116,000 and still has $63,000 on hand. I see no reason why Hansen will overperform while Democrats win every other race here.
Projected state senate: 16 Democrats, 14 Republicans (no change).
Estimated PVI: R+0
Registration: 41% Democratic, 35% Republican
It's open, as the Democratic incumbent Arnie Roblan is running for the state senate. The district includes Coos Bay, Reedsport, Florence, and Yachats and stretches up the coast from Coos County into Douglas, Lane, and even a bit of Lincoln County. This area is ancestrally Democratic but trending Republican. Roblan held on in 2010, and redistricting shored up Democrats a bit, but with an open race in an area that is trending away from us, its dicey. Our candidate, Caddy McKeown, is on the board of the Port of Coos Bay, and is the wife of a former Republican mayor of Coos Bay. McKeown started the year with over $16,000, has raised about $99,000 so far this year, and still has almost $33,000 in the bank. Her opponent is Nancy Brouhard, not quite a "some dude" but also not terribly experienced. Brouhard is a tea party-ish extremist according to my sources. She's raised about $24,000 and has under $10,000 on hand.
Estimated PVI: D+6
Registration: 43% Democratic, 30% Republican
This district, essentially the city of Springfield and a bit of its environs, and it is open. Given that its a Springfield-centric district, it is fitting that the Democratic candidate is a former mayor of the city, John Lively, and the Republican candidate is a city councilor, Joe Pishioneri. Pishioneri has led in fundraising pretty much the whole time, having raised $84,000 this year, to Lively's nearly $44,000, and has nearly $11,000 on hand, to Lively's mere $2,400. However, that reflects that Lively has been much more lively lately, as he before trailed by more than 3-1 in money raised, and now he's less than 2-1, so he's made progress. Despite the City of Springfield having a reputation as backward it is pretty reliably Democratic and becoming even more so. An incumbent Democrat here is usually safe. However, there's no incumbent. Given the disparity in fundraising, and the seat being open, yet having a fairly reliable Democratic lean, I'm rating this as still leaning Democratic.
Estimated PVI: D+3
Voter Registration: 42% Democratic, 31% Republican
This district is based in Woodburn and north Salem, and is represented by Democrat Betty Komp. Komp is facing a rematch from 2010, when she narrowly defeated Republican Kathy LeCompte. LeCompte is back, but given that Komp won in 2010, the best year for Republicans in decades, and the district was also slightly altered to be more Democratic in the course of redistricting, and that this district, being Oregon's only non-white majority district in the state, should have much better Democratic turnout this year, I don't see her coming any closer this year. LeCompte has raised over $33,000 and has less than $8,000 on hand, but curiously I can't find anything for Komp.
Estimated PVI: D+8
Voter Registration: 42% Democratic, 30% Republican
Republicans insist their Hispanic, small business owning recruit, Manuel Castaneda, will be competitive in this Aloha-based district, but I don't see it. This district was one of the first in Washington County to be won by Democrats, is more Democratic than any district the Republicans won in 2010, and is still trending Democratic. The Democratic incumbent here, Jeff Barker, is also no liberal firebrand, but is known as being fairly moderate. Barker has raised more than $90,000 and still has over $39,000, while Castaneda has raised over $110,000 and still has nearly $57,000, but I don't see how he can overcome the Democratic bent of this district.
Estimated PVI: D+3
Voter Registration: 39% Democratic, 32% Republican
I've heard good and bad things about this race in Forest Grove, Cornelius, and western Hillsboro, and overall have to think it'll come down to the wire. Republican Katie Eyre is a strong incumbent; she started the year with about $35,000, has raised above $73,000, and still has over $30,000 on hand. Her Democratic opponent, a political operative by the name of Ben Unger (best known for managing John Kroger's 2008 campaign for AG) has raised over $147,000 and still has nearly $64,000 left on hand, after waging a primary against our 2010 nominee. This district was Democratic held from 2002-2010, when our incumbent left it for a losing run for the state senate, and Unger is from a farming family in the district, so we should have a good shot at winning. I really can't predict how it'll turn out, as both sides are strong and the district is super swingy.
Estimated PVI: D+6
Voter Registration: 38% Democratic, 32% Republican
This Hillsboro-based district is one of the fastest trending Democratic swing districts in the state. Republican Shawn Lindsay has also proven to be a very underwhelming representative. We first won this district in 2006, holding it in 2008, but lost it in 2010 when our incumbent dropped out due to his wife's poor health. We would be favored to win here, but our original candidate here has again dropped out, this time due to her family's financial situation. Lindsay began the year with over $44,000, and has raised over $71,000 this year, with over $39,000 on hand. Democrat Joe Gallegos in a short time has raised over $33,000, and has apparently gotten off to quite a start, as he has little over $7,000 left. I hope this means he's waging a vigorous effort, because if Barack Obama wins this district by near the numbers he did in 2008, and Gallegos is waging a quality campaign, Obama's tide could carry him to victory. Unfortunately, Lindsay is advantaged because Gallegos got in late.
Estimated PVI: D+3
Voter Registration: 38% Democratic, 38% Republican
This Democratic-trending but historically Republican district is one Democrats have been trying to target for years. Based in Tualatin and West Linn, it was open in 2010 when incumbent Scott Bruun ran against Kurt Schrader for Congress. Unfortunately, that was an awful year for Democrats, and Republican Julie Parrish snuck through with a winning margin of less than 500 votes. This year she's up against Carl Hosticka, a former legislator and UO professor who moved to the Portland area and has been an elected Metro Councillor for a number of years, representing part of this district. Both have been fundraising competitively, nearly $73,000 for Parrish with nearly $20,000 on hand, and over $79,000 for Hosticka with over $30,000 on hand, but whereas the last time I blogged this Hosticka lagged Parrish, now you can see he's overtaken her. Parrish's only advantage may be that people often describe her as charismatic, whereas Hosticka is more of a wonk.
Estimated PVI: D+3
Voter Registration: 42% Democratic, 33% Republican
Former Democratic leader Dave Hunt left this district to run (and lose) for Clackamas County Chair, after it was weakened substantially in redistricting. A Hunt ally, former state representative Brent Barton, is running here on the Democratic side. Barton defeated a Republican incumbent in a neighboring R+2 district in 2008, but lost in 2010 when he tried to move up to the state senate. He's a hard campaigner, canvassing something like 11,000 doors personally in his 2008 victory, and also raising an impressive amount of money. He's favored in this Democratic leaning district, based in Oregon City and Gladstone. Republican Steve Newgard is a contractor, apparently involved in the community but not an office holder, and has raised about $60,000 and has nearly $15,000 on hand. Barton has raised about $62,000 this year, having overtaken Newgard's earlier lead, and carried over a little under $15,000 from his previous campaign account, and still has a little under $9,000 on hand. On it's face, I have to think that Newgard appears to be a credible, strong candidate, but that Barton should be favored.
Estimated PVI: D+7
Voter Registration: 43% Democratic, 29% Republican
Republican Matt Wand got elected in this ancestrally Republican district (only held by a Democrat in recent years from 2009-2011) in 2010 on a campaign based on hate and resentment. He's the only candidate I've ever seen who in the voter's pamphlet statement attacked his opponent, and did so over his opponent's support for gay marriage. He's built his position on the resentment of Portland. You see, his district is based in East County, it being parts of Gresham, along with Troutdale, Wood Village, and Fairview. Redistricting added a precinct in Portland to the district, a small change that probably won't prove determinative in the race, but makes it that much harder for Wand to pull out a victory in a year where turnout will be much more unfavorable for him.
His Democratic opponent is former cop and current Mount Hood Community College instructor Chris Gorsek. Gorsek got in late and has raised about $56,000, with over $11,000 on hand, and has a great profile for the district. Wand has raised almost $147,000 so far this year, but blew most of it on an uncontested primary and has under $43,000 left in the bank. Wand wasted a lot of money on a futile effort to run as a write-in in the Democratic primary and defeat Gorsek there. Chris Gorsek got 2,392 votes in the Democratic primary, while there were only 92 write-in votes cast. Meanwhile, Wand only got 1,843 votes in his own uncontested primary. HD-49 is probably the lowest hanging fruit for Democrats. Wand has gotten in hot water lately as a result of being one of a group of Republican legislators who visited a topless bar in California, and who had very questionable twitter practices come to light. Despite his cash advantage, I don't think this buffoon can repeat his 2010 victory.
Estimated PVI: D+3
Voter Registration: 40% Democratic, 34% Republican
This district is based in the most conservative parts of both Portland and the Clackamas County suburbs: far outer SE Portland, Happy Valley, and Damascus. Despite this it still leans Democratic, but that's not the only reason I'm saying it is a likely pick-up for Democrats. Sheehan's 2010 victory was a fluke in the first place. At the time the district was far different: a broad swath of central Clackamas County, including Estacada, it had two arms extending upward east and west of Happy Valley, venturing into Multnomah County on both sides. Rated as R+2 at the time, Brent Barton had won it in 2008, but had left to run for the state senate. The Democratic candidate here, Cheryl Myers, was much more respected from her involvement on the North Clackamas School Board, and even had the support of the Oregon Business Association. Nobody thought much of Sheehan, and if it hadn't been 2010, he would've lost.
Well, he won, and got redistricted, and now 70% of his district is new to him. His opponent is Democratic lawyer Shemia Fagan, a member of the David Douglas School Board, who has raised over $82,000 and has over $30,000 left. Sheehan has raised almost $76,000 and has nearly $31,000 left, so this is quite competitive in terms of money. However, because of Sheehan's weak showing in 2010 and the dramatic redrawing of the district, Fagan only has to outperform Myers' 2010 showing by less than a half a point in order to beat Sheehan. Given higher Democratic turnout in a presidential year, and this area's trend towards Democrats, I think that's likely.
Projected state house: 32 Democrats, 26 Republicans, 2 I'm too cowardly to call (at least +2 Democrats).
I won't cover county or municipal races right now, but I may in the future. As I'm just beginning law school this month I should be spending my time on homework rather than this!