We don't have much time left before election day, so I figured y'all need an update.
As you probably know, Oregon is considered pretty safe for Obama, we don't have any US Senate or gubernatorial races, and all of our members of the US House are considered safe this year.
In addition, the Republicans had no candidates file in the races for Attorney General or Treasurer, and the write-in candidates who won their nominations are not serious challengers.
As a result, our biggest races are for Secretary of State, Commissioner of Labor & Industries, and races in the state legislature.
Secretary of State
In 2008 Democrat Kate Brown was elected Secretary of State in one of the closest partisan statewide races of the past decade. That would imply that she should be a top opportunity for Republicans to challenge this year, and indeed she was the only one of the partisan statewide executives to receive a serious challenge. Republican Knute Buehler of Bend, who is some sort of doctor (I don't really care what kind, as I expect him to fade back into obscurity in about a month), stepped up and filed for the office. He's raised nearly a million dollars for the race altogether, and still has nearly $475k on hand. Kate's had, together with the money she had before the year, and with the roughly $635k she's raised, somewhat over $715k to spend, and still has about $401k on hand.
Knute has had some fundamental problems, though. First, aside from quixotic attempts to define himself as the campaign finance reform candidate, he's otherwise set himself upon a very conservative platform, and waged a very bitter, aggressive campaign. That may be the way to rile up his tea party base, but it isn't the way to appeal to swing voters in the suburbs.
And Kate's perceived vulnerability is based on circumstances in 2008 that Knute can't replicate. Her Republican opponent then was Rick Dancer, a local television news personality based in Eugene. With access to and name rec in most of Southern Oregon, Dancer performed many times better than a normal Republican would, including winning Lane County itself, which is usually a safe Democratic county. Despite this, Kate Brown still won.
Buehler comes from Bend, a Republican leaning area, and had very little exposure prior to this race. He can't hope to undermine Kate in a traditional Democratic base area the way Dancer did. I really don't see a credible path for Knute Buehler to win, despite his fundraising. And PPP found similarly some months back, putting Kate at 48%, Knute all the way back at 30%. With numbers like that, I don't see any reason to characterize this as anything but Likely Democratic.
Commissioner of Labor & Industries
This race is nominally nonpartisan, but incumbent Brad Avakian is a Democrat who previously represented some of the Beaverton area in the state senate, and challenger Bruce Starr is a Republican state senator from Hillsboro. Polling has been fairly commonly released in this race, and the polls have had two things in common. First, they've all shown the two candidates in a dead heat, within a couple points of each other. Second, they've all shown a majority of voters don't know who they will support, so we don't really know much of anything.
I'd probably have given the edge to Starr until recently. He had an advantage in fundraising, and seemed to be doing a decent job of making his case to Oregonians. Avakian had gotten some good press in the Oregonian for his pressure on the Typhoon restaurants who had been abusing their Thai workers, but few people know anything about him or even that the office exists at any moment other than while they're filling in the bubble (or arrow) on their ballot. If they even bother for this down-ballot race.
Well, a couple things have changed. Avakian has now outraised Starr by something like $50k and has a lot more money on hand, I believe somewhere around $140k on hand more currently.
Starr also made a committed a significant error when stating that he thinks Oregon should become a Right to Work state.
That was the angle conservative talk show host Lars Larson used when interviewing Starr, who is trying to unseat Brad Avakian, a Democrat, as labor commissioner. Asked if he would openly advocate for Oregon to become a right-to-work state, Starr responded: “Yes. The pure answer and clear answer is ‘yes,’ Lars, I would. I’m pro-choice in that regard. Let’s let folks choose who they want to associate with, and again, I think a policy like that would create a lot more economic opportunity in our state and a lot more jobs, make Oregon a much more attractive place to do business.”This has exposed Starr as anything but the moderate he usually pretends to be. I'm calling this one Lean Avakian for now.
The state senate currently has a 16-14 Democratic majority, and so Republicans theoretically have a shot at tying or outright taking the majority. In reality, I find it very doubtful that would happen given the races that are up. There are very few races up this year that are realistically swing districts, and I'll describe them below. Most of the swingy districts will be up in 2014.
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
On paper this should be the most competitive district, especially because it's open. The reality is that we have Arnie Roblan, one of the state reps here, as our candidate, and the Republican is the guy who couldn't beat him in 2010 in his last re-election. That's a big problem for the Republicans, because while this district is about D+2, Roblan's house district was R+1. Roblan has fund-raised strongly, raising nearly $328k so far, and still has almost $82k on hand, while his opponents has raised less than $228k and has about $100k on hand. Additionally, this area is ancestrally Democratic, and so Roblan has a lot of institutional support and there is a lot more willingness to vote for Dems down-ballot than one might expect in a D+2 district. Most people don't consider it at all likely that Roblan will lose. I don't either. I'll call it Likely Democratic.
Estimated PVI: D+5
Registration: 42% Democratic, 30% Republican
Places: Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview, bits of outer east Portland.
This district is apparently more competitive, but I'm not too worried here either. Republicans think they have a shot because 2008 was a recent high point there, and the area is ancestrally Republican. On the other hand, our incumbent Laurie Monnes Anderson has outraised the Republican candidate, and as you can see by the numbers this district does have a significant Democratic lean. Her opponent has raised about $245k this year, and still has about $68k, while Monnes Anderson has raised almost $309k this year (on top of starting the year with about $65k) and still has over $191k left. With the fight here and for one of the house districts here there will be a lot of focus and activity from both parties, but with Democrats being so dominant in Multnomah County and having stronger resources, and then adding in that Obama will likely dominate in this district by boosting minority turnout, I think we'll be fine. Likely Democratic.
Estimated PVI: R+4
Voter Registration: 38% Republican, 34% Democratic
Places: Bend, Redmond, and central Deschutes County
This is a surprising addition to my line-up of competitive races, as you'll notice it was absent from my last diary and considered Safe Republican in the previous one. A number of circumstances have convinced me to change that.
Incumbent Chris Telfer (R) was defeated by the more conservative former state rep Tim Knopp in the primary. Telfer (to be clear, a woman) was considered a moderate, Knopp is considered much more extreme, opposing abortion in all cases. The Democratic candidate is Geri Hauser, a GIS specialist for Deschutes County, and she did not appear at first to be a formidable challenge to either Telfer or Knopp. She's had fairly weak fundraising so far to boot.
However, I've learned of a recent poll that put Hauser within one point of Knopp, and that Telfer will be helping Hauser in her attempt to defeat him. Hauser's fundraising has also picked up in recent days, though she still significantly lags behind Knopp, but outside groups are apparently taking more of an interest here. So you know what I'm talking about in terms of disparity, Knopp has raised almost $301k so far, and still has a little over $55k on hand, while Hauser has only raised about $49k and has under $8k left, according to the state records.
Given that this area has been trending Democratic in recent years, and redistricting really cut into the Republican lean of the district, despite that I'm going to be cautious and call this one Likely Republican, don't be surprised if there's an upset.
Projected State Senate: 16-14 Democratic/ no change
The state house is currently divided 30-30, so any net change will determine control of the chamber. Most of the real action has been in Republican-held districts, so I anticipate that a change will bring Democratic control, but Republicans have also been trying to make some Democratic districts competitive.
Estimated PVI: R+0
Registration: 41% Democratic, 35% Republican
Places: Coos Bay/North Bend, Florence, Dunes City, Yachats
This district should be among the most competitive on paper, but it reality, like SD-05, it doesn't appear to be. This is the district that Arnie Roblan is vacating to run for that open senate district, and it's the only one in the state that Democrats hold that nevertheless has an R+ PVI.
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 $174k so far this year, and still has over $79k 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 $26k and has a little over $9k on hand.
We had a great recruit, and I think the Republicans wish they had a better one. As a result, they've been spending less here and more in districts that are much more solidly Democratic, trying to shake one loose into being competitive. Likely Democratic.
Estimated PVI: D+6
Registration: 43% Democratic, 30% Republican
Places: the city of Springfield
This district is 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 over $220k this year, to Lively's over $128k, and has a little over $23k on hand, to Lively's $41k. 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
Places: Woodburn, Gervais, North Salem
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 $135k and has less than $39k on hand, but curiously I can't find anything for Komp.
Especially given that I've stopped hearing stuff about this race while Republicans have moved on to put money into other races, I see no reason to change my impressions about this race.
Estimated PVI: D+8
Voter Registration: 42% Democratic, 30% Republican
Places: Aloha, Beaverton
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 $187k and still has over $110k, while Castaneda has raised over $188k and still has nearly $79k, but that disguises that Castaneda started out with a much larger fundraising advantage, and Barker has closed it to pretty much nothing.
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 nearly $250k, and still has nearly $73k 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 nearly $351k and still has nearly $84k 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. However, I'm going to say that Eyre's charm that helped her wrest this district away form us in 2010 will allow her to hold on.
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 $195k this year, with over $39,000 on hand. Democrat Joe Gallegos in a short time has raised over $146k, and has has little over $18k 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 $200k for Parrish with nearly $59k on hand, and under $165k for Hosticka with just under $79k on hand. Parrish's only advantage other than a slight monetary one may be that people often describe her as charismatic, whereas Hosticka is more of a wonk. Hosticka, on the other hand, is a planning expert with decades of experience in elected office, unlike the neophyte and carpetbagger who was our nominee last time. According to my research, Hosticka has to overperform that guy by less than 1 point in order to win this year. I'm going to go against my instinct and say that Hosticka will pull this one out. Partially because I've just moved here and will be voting for him.
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 $183k and has nearly $28k on hand. Barton has raised about $197k 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 $29k 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.
There's also been recent news about late tax payments that Newgard has had, but I don't think this kind of story will have a big impact.
Estimated PVI: D+7
Voter Registration: 43% Democratic, 29% Republican
Places: Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village, parts of Gresham and Portland
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. 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 $167k, with over $46k on hand, and has a great profile for the district. Wand has raised over $317k so far this year, but blew much of it on an uncontested primary and has a little over $91k 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 $190k and has under $36k left. Sheehan has raised over $221k and has over $109k left, so he's got a bit of a cash advantage. 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: 33-27 Democratic, +3 for Democrats!