Oregon Politics Roundup – Democrats and Republicans in a race for the majority

Oregon Politics Roundup – Democrats and Republicans in a race for the majority

By Elizabeth Remley

Campaign announcements this fall are making life difficult for campaign strategists in Oregon. The chances are slim that 2012 election results will continue the 30-30 split in the House, and at this point, it seems the Republicans and Democrats have an equal chance to claim the majority. In the Senate, Democrats will try to cling to a one-seat advantage.

All things equal, Democrats in the House have a tough road to hoe. Several prominent members have chosen not to seek re-election for their House seats in districts where the Republican registration numbers are creeping ever higher.

But things are not equal: The 2011 legislature drew new district lines, so 2012 legislative candidates will be elected by a reconfigured voter base. Preliminary studies of the new districts show Republicans in urban areas at a disadvantage; some of their districts even have a Democratic registration edge.

Districts to watch:

House District 9 (South-Central Oregon Coast): Currently held by House Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay. Last month, Sen. Joanne Verger, a Democrat from the same area (Senate District 5), announced she would retire from the legislature. Roblan announced he would campaign to succeed her in the Senate. Republican-Democrat voter registration numbers are close in both the House and Senate seats. If both parties field solid candidates for the open House seat, the election could be close enough to trigger a ballot re-count. In 2010, Roblan won re-election by only 200 votes. Democrats have recruited Caddy McKeown, a moderate with lots of ties in the Coos Bay community.

Senate District 5 (Central Oregon Coast): Verger’s retirement announcement was a partial blow to Senate Republicans, who often relied on Verger to break ranks and vote against her party on issues. This will be a tough seat to defend for Democrats. Roblan’s name recognition will make his campaign easier, but he’ll face a strong challenge from the Republicans.

House District 10 (Central Oregon Coast): This is another coastal district held by a Democrat – Jean Cowan, who will not seek re-election. Voter registration in this district favors Democrats, but just barely. This election will be determined by the strength of candidates fielded by both parties.

House District 29 (Hillsboro): In 2010, Republican Katie Brewer beat Democrat Katie Riley by 1,026 votes, a 7 percent margin. Redistricting has infused many new voters into this growing district, and many of those new voters are registered Democrats. Brewer will seek re-election, but Riley and Democrat political operative Ben Unger have both declared their intent to challenge her. The Democrat primary itself will be a fun race to watch, and either candidate could give Brewer a run for her money.

House District 37 (West Linn): Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, beat Democrat Will Rasmussen for the open seat in 2010 by 500 votes, or 1 percent. In 2012, Parrish will be the incumbent, but rumors are that Rasmussen is considering another run. This could be another close race.

House District 40 (Suburban Clackamas County): Rep. Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, former House Speaker and caucus leader, is running for Clackamas County Commissioner in 2012. His open seat favors Democrats with the new district lines, but a strong Republican could win it. Former state Rep. Brent Barton, a Democrat, recently moved into a condo in downtown Oregon City and declared his intention to run for the seat.

House District 49 (Troutdale): In 2010, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 4,500, but Republican Matt Wand still beat Democrat incumbent Nick Kahl by a thousand votes. In 2012, Wand faces re-election with similar voter registration numbers. If Democrats recruit a likable candidate, Wand’s chances of winning will be slimmer than they were in 2010.

House District 51 (Clackamas): Redistricting put more Democratic voters into this district, making life difficult for one-term incumbent Rep. Patrick Sheehan, R-Clackamas. If Democrats field a prominent candidate, this race could be an easy win for the party.

The 1st Congressional District Shuffle

Assuming the polls are right and State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, D-NW Portland, is elected to Congress to replace David Wu, her seat will be vacant by February. Timing is everything here: The appointment process takes about 30 days, so Senate Democrats could be missing the final vote in their one-seat majority for the February session.

Bonamici won the special primary on November 8. She could choose to resign her Senate seat in order to ensure a replacement by Feb. 1, but she risks having no elected seat if she loses the Congressional race. If she does resign, and one of the House Representatives from her district — Reps. Mitch Greenlick or Chris Harker — is appointed to replace her, then House Democrats must scramble to find a replacement before Feb. 1 to maintain the split control of the House.

About the Author

Elizabeth Remley is director of public affairs at Vox Public Relations Public Affairs. You can learn more about her by visiting the Vox website at www.voxprpa.com.

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