By Bruce R. McCain LLC
At first glance, the Republican tidal wave that swept across America last Tuesday failed to affect Oregon. Heading into Tuesday’s general election, Oregon, Washington and California comprised the Left Coast’s self-described “firewall” against Tea Party intrusion. So how blue does Oregon look after Tuesday’s general election?
Seen from Capitol Hill, Oregon looks as blue as John Kitzhaber’s jeans after every incumbent congressional member won re-election. Senator Ron Wyden earned another six years of commuting between Washington DC and his Oregon mailing address by thumping Jim Huffman, whose 40% showing was underwhelming this election year. Democrat Peter DeFazio won a surprisingly tough 54%-45% victory over Art Robinson in Southern Oregon’s CD-4. In the other two closely watched congressional races, Democrat incumbents Kurt Schrader (CD-5) and David Wu (CD-1) held off challenges by Scott Bruun and Rob Cornilles, respectively. Both of those congressional districts have been held by Democrats since 1975 and Oregonians failed to reverse that trend. In Portland’s 3rd congressional district, Democrat incumbent Earl Blumenauer predictably flattened out-of-district Delia Lopez. The southern Oregon resident’s Tea Party platform may have sounded great to Victoria Taft listeners, but her ads fell on deaf ears as Lopez struggled to a 25% showing in a district with more non-affiliated voters than registered Republicans.
So Oregon’s congressional delegation remains the same with two Democratic senators and four of five Democratic representatives. But the biggest winner in the bunch turned out to be the lone Republican, Rep. Greg Walden. When Blumenauer, Schrader, DeFazio and Wu return to the Capitol, they will be met by Walden, who was tapped as leader of the Republican transition team. Oregon’s four Democrats will take their seats as members of the minority party.
In state-wide races, Democrat Ted Wheeler beat Republican Chris Telfer to become the fifth consecutive Democratic state treasurer. And of course, John Kitzhaber became the governor of Multnomah County after losing in 29 of 36 counties in the closest gubernatorial race in a generation. Kitzhaber’s return to Mahonia Hall extends Democratic occupancy to 28 years, while continuing Democrats’ dominance in state-wide races due to the Multnomah Effect.
Though the Left Coast firewall successfully absorbed the brunt of the conservative wave, the residual red tide had to go somewhere. As it turns out, it followed its natural course and flowed and seeped to the local legislative races where it produced an astounding result. One week ago Democrats enjoyed legislative supermajorities in both chambers. They awoke Wednesday to discover Oregonians had dumped a mass of Red tea into their Blue pot, leaving a Purple legislature comprised of a 30-30 split in the house and a narrow16-14 Democratic senate.
Presiding over the Democrats’ collapse was Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone), who has little chance of returning as house speaker in January. In a clumsy and desperate stunt, Hunt’s caucus smear machine known as FuturePac falsely accused three Republican candidates – Matt Wand, Patrick Sheehan and Shawn Lindsay – of supporting a 30% sales tax. FuturePac’s outrageous lies were described by the Oregonian as the political “Cheap Shot of the Year” and proved disastrously ineffective. All three Republicans won their races, ending the Democratic majority and Hunt’s tenure as speaker.
Of all the Republican legislative victories, none is more significant than Wand’s in HD-49. The battle-ground district, which lies just east of Portland in Multnomah County, was held through 2006 by former house speaker Karen Minnis, who did not seek reelection in 2008. Powered by Obama-mania, Democrats pushed Republicans completely out of Multnomah County in 2008. Part of that sweep was Democrat Nick Kahl’s open seat win over John Nelson (R) in HD-49. With more than 12,000 registered Democrats and less than 8,000 registered Republicans, the incumbent Kahl had a huge built-in advantage over Wand in 2010. Yet Wand firmly re-planted the Republican flag in Multnomah County after only 24 months of exile with a decisive 53%-46% win over his one-term Democrat opponent.
With Wand’s victory in HD-49, Patrick Sheehan’s win in HD-51 (Clackamas) and Mark Johnson’s huge win in HD-52 (Hood River), Republicans created a Red firewall of their own around and below Multnomah County. The visual and literal significance of those three Republican pick-ups cannot be overstated, boosted by Republican Chuck Thomsen’s stunning defeat of Democratic incumbent senator and rising star Brent Barton in SD-26, which consists of Sheehan’s and Johnson’s adjacent house districts.
For Oregonians to finally break free of decades of one-party Democratic rule, they must first understand the effect Multnomah County has on Oregon elections and how independents and conservatives can counter that effect. The 2010 general election laid out the template and the strategy. Portland’s Democratic machine will never be defeated. But it can be surrounded and politically quarantined, thereby reducing its influence over the rest of Oregon. Next: Making Portland See Red…
Bruce R. McCain is a former Sheriff's captain and attorney in private practice in Portland, Oregon. He is an outspoken politico looking at the inner workings of Portland, Multnomah County as well as Oregon state politics. He writes for The Northwest Connection and has appeared on local and national media and is an active participant at VictoriaTaft.com.
Friday, November 05, 2010
By Bruce R. McCain LLC
Posted by Lew Waters at 4:00 PM