2020 elections: What else could go wrong?
So far, 2020 has been, shall we say, an unusual year.
The first worldwide pandemic of the Post World War I eras. Months after months of protests in Portland, often followed by spates of violence, vandalism and arson. Wildfires skirting the edge of the metro area. In September, the region had the worst air pollution on Earth, overtaking such places as Mexico City and Beijing. A session of the Oregon Legislature that, for all intents and purposed, never happened.
No murder hornets in the Northwest so far, so no fear of...
("What's that? Murder hornets spotted in Washington state?" Editor crosses out box on his Apocalypse Bingo sheet.)
No Sharknados in the Northwest so far, so no fear of that.
As this issue of the Portland Tribune hits the streets, we're six days out from the Nov. 3 general election. Some of the races are fairly predictable. Others are a little more exciting.
But it's 2020. Given how the rest of the year has gone, when it comes to this election, what could go wrong?
It could get worse
No matter how you think about how 2020 has gone so far, in an unsettling coincidence of cosmic timing, celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson says an asteroid could hit the Earth the day before Election Day.
"It may buzz-cut Earth on Nov. 2, the day before the Presidential Election," said Tyson, an astrophysicist, cosmologist, planetary scientist, author and science communicator.
NASA says the asteroid, known as 2018VP1, is projected to miss the Earth by a close 3,908,791 miles, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But both Tyson and NASA say that, even if it hits, it poses no serious threat because it is only about the size of a refrigerator.
Some people, exasperated by the tone of this year's presidential election, started putting out "Meteor 2020" law signs, joking that even Armageddon is better than this political season.
Be careful what you wish for.
The issues you care about the most are not on the ballot
Voters said the top problems facing Portland are homelessness, protests/riots, housing affordability, COVID-19 and law enforcement in a recent DHM Research poll conducted for Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Although the city police accountability system measure is related to issues raised by protesters, none of the remaining measures address Portlanders' top priorities.
As DHM Research political director John Horvick notes, the other measures address issues that weren't even mentioned by Portland voters, including transportation, early childhood development, schools, parks and libraries.
Although it's often been said that Portland and Multnomah County voters routinely approve ever tax increase on the ballot, the poll showed the library measure failing. And Horvick says Metro's $5.2 billion regional transportation funding measure is trending down here and in Washington County, which would doom it because Clackamas County voters are already firmly against it.
Vote-by-mail? Oregon: Been there, done that
Oregon voters are likely to know the results of every election in the state before they know who was elected president.
That's because Oregon has perfected its vote-by-mail system while other states are just now expanding theirs, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although voting is expected to be at a record high across the country this year because of the contested presidential race, all of Oregon's 36 county elections offices are fully prepared to process ballots smoothly and to report the majority of the results within hours of the 8 p.m. deadline on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
In contrast, elections experts predict that many states with large electoral college votes will take days, weeks or longer to finish processing the unprecedented number of their mail-ballots, creating confusion that could trigger lawsuits by both political parties.
Even the closest races in Oregon should be decided long before the shouting ends nationwide.
No, the riots won't end
To hear Rush Limbaugh tell it, Black Lives Matter demonstrators are Democrats protesting President Donald Trump who will go home if Joe Biden is elected.
Likewise, for Portlanders weary of the violence that repeatedly breaks out at the ongoing protests, it might be tempting to think they will stop if Sarah Iannarone defeats Mayor Ted Wheeler and appoints City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to oversee the police bureau.
Although each election result might ease some of the anger in the streets, they likely will not end the violent protests. The demonstrators say they are protesting systemic racism, not supporting particular candidates. Some say elections don't matter. Whoever wins at the Nov. 3 general election will not assume office until January of next year, and enacting their priorities will take much longer.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is promising more money for police, not less, and he has not committed to abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.
Even the new Portland police oversight system on the November ballot will take years for the City Council to finalize.
Portland is jokingly known as The City That Protests. Demonstrations have historically ebbed and flowed, depending in large part on who is in office. But they have never gone away.
How much change on City Council?
With diversity an increasing priority, the City Council already is guaranteed to look different next year. The question is: How different?
When 2020 began, the council consisted of two white men, two white women and a Black woman. That is still the current mix, although the late Commissioner Nick Fish has been replaced with Dan Ryan, the first openly HIV-positive gay member to ever serve on the City Council.
But in January, Latina Carmen Rubio is set to replace Amanda Fritz, who did not run for reelection.
Mayor Ted Wheeler could be replaced by Sarah Iannarone.
And Commissioner Chloe Eudaly could be replaced by Mingus Mapps, a Black former university professor and consultant.
If all that happens, the majority female council would be made up of a Black woman and a Black man, a Latina woman, a white woman, and a white HIV-positive gay man.
And Hardesty — who began serving way, way back in 2019 — would be the most experienced member of the council.
Democrat takeover complete in 2020?
This could finally be the year that Oregon officially becomes a one-party state.
The answer likely hinges on the 2nd Congressional District, where the Democrats have their best chance to win in decades, although the 4th Congressional District race also could be close.
Democrats already control the governor's office and both chambers of the Oregon Legislature, along with four of five statewide offices — excluding Secretary of State — and four of five congressional seats — excluding District 2, which covers most Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon.
Democrat Shemia Fagan is expected to defeat Republican Kim Thatcher in the Secretary of State's race, replacing Republican Bev Clarno, who was appointed to replace Republican Dennis Richardson, who died in office. That would whittle the GOP's major officeholders from two to one.
And longtime Republican Dist. 2 Congressman Greg Walden did not run for reelection, setting the stage for a general election showdown between Democrat political consultant Alex Spenser, former Republican state Sen. Cliff Bentz, and Libertarian Robert Welch.
Although public polls in Oregon are scarce, most campaign veterans expect Bentz to win. Should that happen, it would keep the 2nd District in Republican hands.
But now election watchers are saying Dist. 2 Congressman Peter DeFazio, 73, is facing a serious challenge from Republican Alex Skarlatos, a 27-year-old Army veteran who garnered international fame as one of three American tourists who halted a terrorist attack aboard the Amsterdam-to-Paris Thalys train in 2015. The Cook Political Report recent shifted its forecast for the 2nd District race from a "likely" DeFazio win to "leans Democrat."
Even so, the Democrats' dominance in Oregon is revealed by current registration figures. As of September, there were 1,043,175 Democrats compared to 750,718 Republicans in the state.
The Republicans are even outnumbered by 938,643 non-affiliated voters.
Get ready for 2022
The 2020 election seem supercharged because of the clash between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden for the highest office in the land. But the national and state races in Oregon have been tame, with the Democrat incumbents expected to win reelection and Democrat Shemia Fagan likely to take the open Oregon Secretary of State's race because of her party's voter registration edge.
That will change in 2022 when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown cannot run for reelection because of the two-term limit in the Oregon Constitution. The list of rumored potential Democrat candidates already is lengthy, including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and State Treasurer Tobias Read, who will not be up for reelection if they win this year.
Even Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler would be in the same position.
And Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, who will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2022, could convert her existing political action committee into one for the governor's race.
Other names being mentioned include Metro President Lynn Peterson and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek.
Some of those officeholders could jump into the U.S. Senate or congressional races if any Democrat incumbents give up their seats, but that seem highly unlikely at this time.
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