At least two of the elections that will help decide who controls the 2017 Oregon Legislature will take place in the Portland area next year. That’s because two Democratic state representatives have announced they won’t run for reelection, creating rare open seats heading into the 2016 campaign season.

One is Tobias Read of Beaverton, who is vacating the District 27 seat after a decade to run for state treasurer. The other is Brent Barton, an Oregon City attorney who represents District 40. Barton’s wife is expecting a child in September, and he says he can no longer balance his career, growing family and legislative job.

Democrats currently control the Oregon House by a margin of 35 to 25, and the state Senate by a margin of 18 to 12. Although all 60 seats in the Oregon House and 16 of the 30 in the Senate are up for election next year, control of both chambers will be decided by only a handful of races in each chamber. Most seats are historically defended by incumbents in districts where their parties hold a large voter registration edge, making it hard for other parties to win.

As a result, open seats tend to attract a lot of attention from both parties. And although Democrats outnumber Republicans in Districts 27 and 40, the margins are not as large as the urban districts in Portland and Eugene, where Democrats always win. House Republicans have already announced they will get a share of the $40 million budgeted by the national Republican State Leadership Committee to maintain or win control of state legislative chambers next year.

In addition, the recent designation of the Independent Party of Oregon as a major party will add a new twist in 2016 — all of its legislative candidates who win the party’s 2016 primary election will appear along with the Democrats and Republicans on general election ballots.

As of July of this year, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of 15,930 to 9,744 in District 27. But 1,707 voters were registered Independents and an additional 9,049 were nonaffiliated, meaning they weren’t registered with any party, and 824 were registered to minor parties.

The margin in District 40 is even closer. There, 14,504 voters were registered as Democrats in July, 11,421 were registered as Republicans, 1,923 were registered Independents, 9,103 were nonaffiliated and 1,201 were registered to minor parties.

It’s unclear how a Republican would do against a Democrat other than Read in District 27 in the 2016 general election. No Republican ran against him in 2014.

The situation is much different in District 40, however. Although Barton was the Democratic incumbent in that race, he defeated Republican Steve Newgard by only 1,899 votes of 24,179 cast in the 2014 general election. That’s less than the 3,035 advantage the Democrats held in January.

At least one other state representatives is considering running for statewide office.Democrat Val Hoyle of Eugene is expected to announce for secretary of state. Her District 14 stretches to Junction City. As of July, it included 14,187 Democrats, 10,480 Republicans, 1.939 Independents, 9,155 nonaffiliated voters and 1,194 voters registered to minor parties.

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Peter Wong contributed to this story.

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