Gloomy forecasts for Democrats in two key Oregon races
As the last Fourth of July fireworks fizzled on Monday, Oregon moved into the stretch drive of the 2022 election season.
With four months to go until the Nov. 8 general election, guessing the outcome of Oregon political races is highly speculative. But that hasn't stopped a growing chorus of prognosticators.
Despite a 36-year winning streak, a Democratic victory in the 2022 election for governor was called "no sure thing." The race for the supposedly Democratic-tilting 5th Congressional seat was "too close to call."
Some of the fireworks and fizzles on display in recent days:
Governor's race: Four decades of Democratic wins on the line
Back in 2018, the New York Times came to Oregon in the final two weeks of the race for governor and pronounced the outcome "too close to call" based on analysis by the Cook Political Report and other highly regarded political trend-watchers.
On election day, Gov. Kate Brown defeated the Republican nominee, former Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend. Brown's claim of a "slam-dunk" was an overstatement given she received just over 50% of the vote. But when minor party candidates were added to the count, Brown beat Buehler by a fairly comfortable seven-point margin.
The Times parachuted back into Oregon late last month and issued a report June 28 once again forecasting the possible end to the Democrat's victory streak that goes back to 1986.
President Joe Biden's popularity was falling as inflation drove up the costs of gas, food and other necessities. A three-way race to succeed outgoing Gov. Kate Brown was ratcheting up against a backdrop of U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion, guns and the environment that drove multiple wedges into the electorate. The report's bottom line: the only political certainty was uncertainty.
In what could be a "wave year" for Republicans, the Times said "even deep-blue Oregon is suddenly competitive."
Citing "Biden, crime, gas prices," New York Times reporter Reid J. Epstein wrote "almost nobody in Oregon seems to be happy."
The combination would give Republican nominee Christine Drazan or unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson an opening to win a plurality, upsetting Democratic frontrunner Tina Kotek
Kotek and other Democrats said the court decisions would galvanize voters to get to the polls and ensure Democratic victories in November.
Congress: Flipping the 5th
The other top target of speculation is the 5th Congressional District.
Well before the May 17 primary, many political forecasters in Washington, D.C. were saying a primary upset of U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, could open the door for Republicans to flip the district in the fall.
Terrebonne attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner rode a wave of progressive dissatisfaction with the centrist Schrader to oust him in the primary. She'll face the Republican former mayor of Happy Valley, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, on Nov. 8.
With Schrader out, it's essentially an open seat, one of three in Oregon this year. In closed primaries, the Democratic primary was won by a candidate more liberal than the incumbent, while Republicans chose as their nominee a conservative with ties to allies of former President Donald Trump.
With Democrats getting hit with blame for rising inflation, forecasters see an opening for Republicans.
FiveThirtyEight, the political website run by veteran forecaster Nate Silver, issued a report showing Chavez-DeRemer with a 73% chance of defeating McLeod-Skinner.
Silver's website noted a survey by PPPolls for 314Action, a group advocating the election of candidates who support scientific solutions to issues. The group has endorsed McLeod-Skinner, but the poll they paid for showed Chavez-DeRemer leading McLeod-Skinner 42%-41%, with 17% undecided. PPPolls gets an A- rating in Silver's grading of the reliability and level of partisan control over results.
The Hill, a public policy publication in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday tapped Oregon's 5th district as one of "Seven close races that could decide control of the House." Two other top political tea leaf readers — Cook Political Report and the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia — also have the seat as a toss-up at this early juncture.
Just as in the governor's race, Democrats say Republicans' opposition to abortion and gun control could motivate suburban centrist voters to return to the Democratic camp.
Midnight money madness
Midnight last Thursday was the end of the quarter for congressional fundraising. As the last hours approached, candidates from both parties sent out mass emails asking supporters to make electronic contributions before the witching hour, so they can be counted when records are released this month.
"Kevin McCarthy, Alek Skarlatos, and their radical right-wing cronies are making a big play to flip this district and steal the House majority," wrote Val Hoyle, the Democratic candidate for Oregon's 4th Congressional District just before 6 p.m. Thursday.
McCarthy is the House Republican Leader and Skarlatos is the GOP nominee in the 4th district. In Republican e-mails, the bold name targets are President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Races for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate operate under rules of the Federal Elections Commission. It currently requires candidates to file quarterly statements on fundraising and spending. That means reports will be issued this month and in October for the July 1-September 30 period. On Oct. 19 — 20 days before the Nov. 8 election — contributions have to be reported within 48 hours.
The Oregon Capital Bureau is a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group.
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