It's finally over. What did we learn?
Pundits and political scientists will be studying the details of Tuesday's election for decades. But here in Oregon some lessons are clear already.
The Republican Party is in deep trouble
Rep. Knute Buehler is the kind of Republican who used to thrive in Oregon. In his bid for governor, Buehler largely followed the playbook written by Mark Hatfield, Bob Packwood, Dave Frohnmayer, Norma Paulus and other GOP leaders who won statewide office, staking out moderate stances on social issues and championing some traditional Democratic causes (in his case, education reform and foster care). He ran a smart campaign but still got beat handily by incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. On the same topic, as of Wednesday it looked like Rep. Rich Vial of Scholls was losing his re-election bid. Again, Vial is one of those savvy, business-friendly but socially moderate Republicans for which Oregon used to be famous. If he does lose, it's a significant loss for bipartisanship.
The Independent Party is toast
The Independent Party of Oregon, which was on life-support before this election, is now in danger of flatlining. If their registration dips below 5 percent, as it likely will, it loses the big perk of major-party status: publicly funded primary elections.
Oregon (and Washington County) are progressive
Kate Brown and Kathryn Harrington will lead the state and county. Housing measures passed but conservative statewide measures foundered. Two local legislative losses likely will give Democrats a supermajority in the House, and they could achieve the same in the Senate. On issue after issue, voters here are leaning to the left.
Big money doesn't always win
Phil Knight's $2.5 million contribution to Buehler didn't buy a victory. And Gov. Brown has promised to make campaign finance reform a priority. She showed little interest in that cause as Secretary of State, but now that she doesn't need to worry about re-election, she could spend her political capital and leave a lasting legacy.
Women get things done
While much of the national media focused on the women
running for office, a group of left-leaning Oregon women, including Becca Uherbelau (Our Oregon), Melissa Unger and Felisa Hagins (service employees union), Causa's Andrea Williams (No On Measure 105) and Andrea Cooper (Brown campaign), worked behind the scenes to forge a coalition that was key to Brown's victory and the defeat of several ballot measures.
Metro is getting bigger
The nation's only regionally elected governing board just got a new, big mission. The passage of the Metro affordable housing bond means the tri-county agency, which has primarily focused on regional planning, trash and a zoo, will be getting into the housing business. That new responsibility will come with additional scrutiny.
Letter writers rule
Anyone who watches regular television has been bombarded with ads for this election cycle. So much so that it drives viewers crazy. The TV ads are hyperbolic, vitriolic and just-plain nuts. Most, though not all, tend to lean toward the negative. Compare that to the pages and pages of letters to the editor that appeared in the Pamplin Media Group newspapers. Most of them were positive in nature and well crafted. They stated, in simple terms, what your neighbors, your fellow church-goers, your co-workers thought about the people and issues in the race. Our papers are proud to have published so many pages of letters. They represent the calm voice of democracy at its finest.
Leo Durocher was wrong
The legendary baseball manager is credited with coining the phrase "nice guys finish last" when dismissing the congenial, but last-placed New York Giants in 1946. Seven decades later, Kathryn Harrington proved otherwise, taking the high road to best Bob Terry in the race for Washington County chair. Terry, a current county commissioner, went negative early in the election, characterizing Harrington as a tax-happy, hippie-loving liberal who would bring "Portland creep" to Washington County and using a protest photo with a swastika in his final, desperate election-eve mailing. Harrington, a Metro councilor who lives in Beaverton, had plenty of mud within reach, including Terry's association with anti-immigrant activists and personal financial woes. But instead, she focused on her vision for the county.
Voters rewarded her with an easy victory and sent Terry, who issued a late non-apology (blaming the media), to the showers.
Oregon leads the way (again)
The Election Day press was awash in stories of long lines at polling places, shortened hours for polling places, even hastily relocated polling places. Some of that, it's been suggested, was part of voter-suppression operations in several states. But Oregon's potent combo of motor-voter registration and vote-by-mail balloting does away with all of that. And, while many voters are wary of foreign players attempting to alter the outcome of key races, Oregon has a cure for that: Vote-by-mail requires paper ballots that can be counted and recounted as needed, and robust auditing capability to make sure every vote gets counted the same way it's cast.
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