Former Vice President Joe Biden registered a rather uninspiring performance in the Oregon presidential primary last night, scoring a 68% win but against an entire field of candidates who long ago exited the race. All other Democratic incumbents running in the same type of low competition elections all recorded over 81% of the primary vote. Whether Mr. Biden’s performance suggests that he still has not convinced a large share of the Sanders-Warren coalition to support his candidacy remains to be seen.
In the open 2nd District with Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) retiring from the lone Republican CD in the state, which encompasses the entire eastern sector, is open for the first time since 1998. Defeating 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee Knute Buehler is former state Senator Cliff Bentz, who ran well to the former man’s right. The primary was a crowded affair with 11 candidates on the ballot. Mr. Bentz is now the prohibitive favorite to win here in November.
The only other even slightly competitive primary occurred in the Salem anchored 5th District where veteran incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) was re-nominated over local Mayor Mark Gamba with 70% of the vote. Rep. Schrader will now have an easy general election run.
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno (D) announced that the May 19th state primary will remain in place. Ms. Clarno indicated that because the state uses a universal mail system for its regular elections there is no increased risk of spreading the Coronavirus. Therefore, the Oregon primary will proceed as scheduled. Other states, such as Ohio, are considering switching to the all-mail format in response to taking extra precautions.
The Oregon candidate filing deadline has now passed in preparation for the state primary on May 19th. Four of the state’s five incumbent House members are seeking re-election, with former House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Hood River) retiring after serving 11 terms when the current Congress concludes.
Vying to replace him in the safely Republican seat are 11 candidates headed by 2018 gubernatorial nominee and ex-state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend). Within the large field are two former state Senators. Mr. Buehler clearly has the highest name identification among the candidates, and a crowded field in a plurality primary suggests that he must be considered the early favorite for the party nomination.
All four incumbents seeking re-election face primary challenges from multiple candidates, but only one, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Salem), has an elected official running. Milwaukie Mayor Matt Gamba is making the race. His city sits seven miles south of Portland and is a community of slightly over 20,000 individuals. Rep. Schrader is the prohibitive favorite, but Mr. Gamba could generate more support than the other frequent candidates who adorn the ballot elsewhere in the state.
The Oregon candidate filing deadline has just passed, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) looks like a sure bet to win a third term in November. Four Republicans filed against Sen. Merkley, all individuals who have run for other offices without success. Former Linn County Republican Party chair and 2014 US Senate nominee Jo Rae Perkins returns for another attempt at ousting Sen. Merkley, but her chances are slim at best.
Sen. Merkley was interested in running for President, but upon failing to convince state legislative leadership and the Governor of his own party to change state law to allow candidates to run for more than one office simultaneously, Mr. Merkley retreated to the safety of his Senate seat.
The US Census Bureau officers released their latest population projections in order to measure national population growth for the period between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. The results find the national rate of growth slowing to 0.5%, mostly as a result of decreased immigration. The peak period for the decade came during the July 1, 2014 – July 1, 2015 period when the growth rate registered 0.73%.
With these numbers come the ability to project which states will gain and lose congressional seats in 2020 reapportionment. The national reapportionment will be calculated and announced after the 2020 census is completed. The states will receive their congressional seat quota a year from now, with a release typically coming during the period between Christmas and New Year’s.
If current projections prove correct, Texas looks to gain three seats, Florida two, with Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each slated to gain one. The losing states look to be Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
If these projections prove true, California will lose a seat for the first time in history. It’s also realistic that the actual totals could yield a two-seat loss for Illinois or New York, and possibly both. Right now, it appears ten congressional seats will change states, but that number could grow. Usually, the actual numbers tend to differ slightly from the early published projections.
Eleven-term Oregon Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) released a statement late yesterday saying that he will not seek re-election next year to the position he originally won in 1998. Mr. Walden is the ranking Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee and was chairman when Republicans held the majority. He is also a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman.
The 2nd District occupies 19 eastern Oregon counties and part of one other. It is the lone safe Republican seat in the state (Trump ’16: 57-37; Romney ’12: 57-41%). There are now 30 open seats for the next House election, 21 of which come from the Republican column.
Alec Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman who helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015 and later played himself in a Clint Eastwood directed movie depicting the event, has announced a bid for Congress. This won’t be Mr. Skarlatos first political run, however. Last year, he ran for Douglas County Commissioner, and while placing second in a field of eight candidates for the non-partisan position, still came just under 1,300 votes of winning.
Mr. Skarlatos will be running in the Republican primary to eventually challenge House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield/ Eugene) who has held the politically marginal district since the beginning of 1987.
Before having the opportunity of challenging the Congressman, Skarlatos must first get past former Oregon Republican Party chairman Art Robinson who has been the 4th District GOP congressional nominee in every election of this decade. Also in the race is former congressional candidate Jo Rae Perkins who lost the nomination to Robinson in 2018. OR-4 was one of the closest CDs in the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton nipped President Trump here, 46.1 – 46.0%, so the 2020 general election has the potential of becoming competitive.
Milwaukie (OR) Mayor and National Geographic magazine photographer Mark Gamba yesterday filed a Federal Election Commission committee, the first official step toward launching a Democratic primary challenge campaign to six-term veteran Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby/Salem). If Mr. Gamba can raise substantial resources, the race could become viable. Rep. Schrader tends to be more moderate than his electorate, which could open the door to stiff competition especially in context with the concurrent presidential campaign atmospherics.
Yesterday, two-term Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) announced that he will seek re-election next year. His declaration also means that he will not be a presidential candidate, which he acknowledged, because the Oregon political leadership would not adhere to his request to change election law so individuals could simultaneously seek more than one office. Sen. Merkley is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.
Yesterday, Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R) lost his long battle with brain cancer and passed away at age 69. With no Lt. Governor, the Secretary of State assumes the Governorship in case of a vacancy. The office also has strong power with regard to redistricting, thus filling the position could render national implications. Oregon looks to be gaining a new congressional seat, so this redistricting cycle will likely be an important one in the Beaver State.
Gov. Kate Brown (D) has the authority to appoint a replacement for the late Mr. Richardson. The Governor indicated that she would consider naming a Republican provided the individual promised not to seek election to a full term in 2020.
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