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Women remain political powerhouses, and campaigning statewide on 'Portland is awful' isn't a recipe for winning.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tina Kotek smiles for the camera prior to winning her race to be Oregon's next governor. The Tuesday, Nov. 8, election proved that women remain a political powerhouse at the city, county and state level in Oregon. It likely is too early to tell exactly how much Oregon will be affected by the Nov. 8 general election, but we can see some immediate impacts. They include:

Women candidates made another strong showing in Oregon

Women in politics still face sexism — and worse — in their quest to shape policy and lead governments. But Oregon has, in recent history, been a place where they can, and do, succeed. This year was no different:

Oregon made history by being the first state in the union in which three women vied for the governorship in general election. And the apparent victory of former Speaker Tina Kotek means Oregon will have two women governors back-to-back. (We don't make history there; Arizona beat us to that honor in 2009 when Jan Brewer took the helm from Janet Napolitano.)

The race for Oregon Labor Commissioner — one of only five government offices elected statewide; seven if you count our U.S. senators — was between the apparent winner, Christine Stevenson, and Cheri Helt.

Of Oregon's six congressional seats, four likely will be held by women: Suzanne Bonamici in the 1st; Val Hoyle in the 4th, and quite likely Lori Chavez-DeRemer in the 5th and Andrea Salinas in the 6th.

Jessica Vega Pederson beat Sharon Meieran to be chairwoman of the Multnomah County Commission (all three metro-area county chairs are women).

And finally, this little gem of story: As of Tuesday's election, half of the 12 incorporated cities in Washington County will have women mayors. Heidi Lueb in Tigard and Malynda Wenzl in Forest Grove will join Lacey Beaty in Beaverton, Teri Lenahan in North Plains, Jaimie Fender in King City and Stephanie Jones in Banks.

•Dissatisfaction with Portland runs deep — but has limits

The measure to totally revamp city government is passing 56% to 44%, as of Thursday, while challenger Rene Gonzalez beat incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty by almost the exact same percentage.

However, nobody who campaigned statewide on the perception that Portland is a hell hole won this year. In the May primary, several Republicans — including Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam — ran essentially on the language, "If you don't want your town to die like Portland died, vote for me." To her credit, the eventual GOP candidate, Christine Drazan, downplayed the Portland-is-awful message. Nonaffiliated gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson infamously referred to Portland as "the city of roaches," and labeled her Democratic opponent as "Tent City Tina." Johnson got shellacked, even in her home, Columbia County.

The takeaway: You cannot gleefully besmirch Portland and want to run statewide in Oregon. Portland is the economic heart of the state; candidates have to embrace it with plans to improve it, not denigrate it. Drazan, to her credit, got that and ran a far more successful campaign than any of her GOP or unaffiliated opponents, both statewide and in Multnomah County.

• Be careful what you wish for

Many progressive Democrats were never big fans of moderate-to-conservative Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader, House District 5. So there was some smirking when Schrader lost in the May primary to the more liberal Jamie McLeod-Skinner. But this week, McLeod-Skinner underperformed and seems to be losing to Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer, former mayor of Happy Valley, thus giving the GOP a much-needed seat in the closely divided U.S. House of Representatives. The liberal wing of the Democratic party isn't quite so smug now.

• Voters want lawmakers to make laws, not disappear

Oregonians remembered when the GOP legislators walked out in 2020, tanking the entire legislative session and costing the state a full year of progress on both Democratic and GOP priorities. Of four statewide measures, the one punishing legislators for prolonged walkouts is winning by the largest margin, about 68% in favor as of Thursday. Now, if you're in the Legislature and you log 10 or more unexcused absences, you cannot run for reelection in the following cycle. We could still see short walkouts of a day or two, to shine a spotlight on some major disagreements between the parties in the minority and majority. But the days of session-ruining walkouts are over.

• In Oregon politics, money only buys you so much

Oregon's most famous rich guy, Phil Knight of Nike, is better at funding higher education than he is as a political kingmaker. He poured millions into Knute Beuhler's failed run against Gov. Kate Brown four years ago. This year, he put about $2 million into helping the GOP take the Legislature. He pumped millions into the coffers of Betsy Johnson, first, then Christine Drazan, to stop Tina Kotek's journey to Mahonia Hall. Knight has had five shots on goal and can't find the back of the net.


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