(In the final days of an election, there is so much information from so many races, it's difficult to stay on top of every story and understand the subtle dynamics often at play on the ground. Thankfully, we have an expansive 50-state blogosphere to match our 50-state strategy. Over the last two weeks of the campaign, we've asked leaders of the state blogospheres to provide insight into late developments and share the stories of their states in a series we're calling "Listening to the Locals." SusanG)
My name is Kari Chisholm, and I'm one of the editors at BlueOregon - the premier progressive political blog in Oregon. Here's a political tour of our fine state.
Oregon can be a political conundrum. Outside the state, we've got a reputation as a liberal haven, loaded with those latte-loving, sushi-eating, mountain-biking, Prius-driving, soccer-loving, secular hedonists that right-wingers love to hate. And at the presidential level, we've voted for the Democrat every year since 1984.
But here at home, the reality is a bit more complex. For 16 years, until 2006, the Oregon House was dominated by the nastiest right-wing Republicans around. We've got a ballot measure system that's dominated by wacko conservatives and their corporate backers. And, of course, we've got the last remaining Republican Senator on the West Coast.
We've decriminalized marijuana, but banned gay marriage. We'll let you get a doctor's help to end your life, but we won't let you pump your own gas.
Why the schizophrenic politics? Maybe it's the rain. Or maybe...
Or maybe, as FiveThirtyEight.com discovered, we've got the most liberal liberals and the most conservative conservatives of any state in the union. Here's what's happening in Oregon in 2008:
The race features corporate lackey Gordon Smith against progressive hero Jeff Merkley. In 2006, Merkley led the Democrats in Oregon to take back the Oregon House - and led the most progressive and most productive legislative session in the nation.
Merkley is arguably the most progressive challenger in a competitive U.S. Senate race in the country.
That's why Democracy for America just announced that Merkley is their #1 priority in the nation.
That's why Al Gore is headlining a rally for Merkley on Friday in Portland. (TICKETS HERE.)
And that's why Jeff Merkley is the target of eight (!) separate attack ad campaigns from Karl Rove's Freedom's Watch, the shadowy Americans for Job Security, the anti-union Employee Freedom Action Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, the Associated General Contractors, the NRSC and Gordon Smith.
Oregon is being deluged with attack ads. The antidote to that? The biggest grassroots campaign in Oregon history, just as Jeff Merkley promised when he announced. You know what else? It's also the biggest netroots campaign in Oregon history.
Over 21,000 people from over 4300 zipcodes in all 50 states have donated to Jeff Merkley -- over 90% of them under $100. Join this grassroots movement. Make a donation.
The only competitive congressional race is in Oregon-5, where Congresswoman Darlene Hooley is retiring - one of only two incumbent Democrats in the nation to do so.
Oregon-5 is historically the toughest swing district in the state. Running to replace Hooley are Kurt Schrader (D) and Mike Erickson (R). Schrader is a state senator, a veterinarian, and a farmer. Mike Erickson is a self-funding millionaire businessman with a checkered past.
THE BALLOT MEASURES
Over the last century, no state has been more dedicated to the use of citizen initiatives than the state that pioneered it - with usually a dozen or so measures each election cycle.
Unfortunately, our initiative system has been largely hijacked by a small handful of right-wing activists - and the gazillionaire lunatics that fund their work.
This year, there are five measures from Bill Sizemore - an anti-tax, anti-union activist and initiative racketeer. His measures would undermine labor unions, blow a $2.5 billion hole in the state budget, force "performance" pay for teachers, and require English-only teaching in schools.
There are two measures from Kevin Mannix - a former legislator, five-time election loser, and pro-prison activist. He would require prison time for first-time nonviolent offenders (costing at least a billion in new prisons) and move $200 million in lottery dollars from education and economic development to law enforcement.
And yes, the rumors are true. Both Mannix and Sizemore receive millions of dollars from just one sugar-daddy -- Nevada millionaire and sexual hypnotist Loren Parks. You can't make this stuff up.
If you're not from Oregon, here's what I want to know from you: Does every state have their own cast of right-wing nutballs? Or are we just extra-lucky here in Oregon?
The race for State Treasurer features State Sen. Ben Westlund, a former Republican who became a Democrat in 2007 -- and businessman Allen Alley, a Republican who served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat. Go figure. Expect Westlund to win handily.
The race for Secretary of State stars State Sen. Kate Brown, former Senate Majority Leader (D). She's whip-smart, progressive, and dedicated to election protection. (Oh, and if elected, she'll be America's first openly-GLBT statewide elected official.) She's running against Rick Dancer (R), a local TV talking head funded by timber tycoons. It's a close race, with "undecided" leading both candidates in the most recent poll.
The Oregon House currently sits at a bare 31-29 majority for the Democrats. And much like the U.S. Senate, Oregon's House Democrats are poised for huge gains in 2008 - perhaps as many as five, six, or even seven more seats; Republicans have failed to seriously challenge a single incumbent.
No race exemplifies the changing face of Oregon politics like the one between right-wing lunatic Rep. Linda Flores and attorney and politico Brent Barton. They're running in a usually-reliable GOP stronghold in the exurban outskirts of Portland, but this may be our year. Flores is known for her defense of predatory payday lenders, and her insane views on immigration and abortion (rape victims don't deserve emergency birth control?!), while Barton is talking about bread-and-butter issues like jobs, education, and health care.
The Oregon Senate has 19 Democrats and 11 Republicans - and no change is expected this year.
Well, that's that. Come visit us over at BlueOregon, the water cooler around which Oregon progressives gather for news, commentary, and gossip. Thanks for reading.
Full disclosure: My company, Mandate Media, builds websites for political campaigns -- including Jeff Merkley, Kurt Schrader, Kate Brown, and the Oregon House Democrats -- but the analysis above is my own and I speak only for myself.