The following is an update on Tuesday’s election. As we prepared this, the political landscape continues to take shape as votes continue to be counted.
Federal Election Landscape
Votes continue to be counted in very tight races in key states across the country that will determine both the winner of the Presidential election, as well as Senate races that will determine which political party will hold the Senate majority next congress. In the House of Representatives, democrats will continue to hold the House majority, but by a slightly more narrow margin. The final outcomes will shape our expectations for the federal agenda next congress, of which our expectations widely vary depending on the balance of power in and between Congress and the White House.
For the Oregon delegation, Senator Jeff Merkley and all House member incumbents won their elections and will return to congress. In the OR-2 district, Rep. Greg Walden is retiring and the seat was won by Cliff Bentz, a familiar name to many in the OSU community from his time in the state legislature. Mr. Bentz is the first new member we welcome into Oregon’s federal delegation since 2012 when Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) was appointed in a special election.
Democrats will again control all of Oregon’s statewide executive offices. State Treasurer Tobias Read and Attorney General Ellen Rosenbaum both won reelection. State Senator Shemia Fagan defeated State Senator Kim Thatcher for Secretary of State, flipping the seat that was previously held by republican Dennis Richardson, and then after his death, Bev Clarno. During the campaign, Fagan voiced support of plans for OSU to manage the Elliott State Forest as a research forest. The Secretary of State is one of three members of the State Land Board, which will soon be making a decision on the future of the Elliott.
While some state legislative races are too close to call, Oregon will only see a small shift in the overall make-up of the legislature, though some regions of the state have seen consequential changes in political representation. The most dramatic political shift was seen on the Oregon Coast where three open seats currently held by retiring democrats have all been won by republicans. Senator Roblan will be replaced by Dick Anderson (Lincoln City mayor), Representative McKeown by Boomer Wright (former school superintendent and Reedsport resident) and Representative Mitchell by Suzanne Weber (Tillamook mayor). Over the past several elections, these districts have seen narrowing margins in democrat victories. Without incumbents running, republican candidates were able to pick up those seats, switching some of the last standing rural democrat districts in the state. This shift on the coast is significant. The Coastal Caucus, which has operated as one of the only substantive bi-partisan caucuses in Salem, has been a key voice in advancing OSU legislative priorities in natural resources and on the coast. New membership in that group will certainly change the historic role they have played in state policy-making.
Additionally, as Deschutes County has turned bluer over the last several years, two of the area’s republican legislators faced tough reelection races. At last check, Senator Tim Knopp (Bend) appeared to be leading the race against Eileen Kiely by 1,500 votes, where we expect the advantage to hold. Representative Cheri Helt (Bend) lost to Deputy District Attorney Jason Kropf. While both Sen. Knopp and Rep. Helt were strong supporters of OSU-Cascades, the flip in the Bend house district will likely broaden the political support for Cascades.
One of the Senate races in Salem is also too close to call. Senator Denyc Boles (R) is currently losing by just under 400 votes to health care advocate Deb Patterson (D), with votes still being counted. Sen. Boles took over the Senate seat from her position as state representative after the passing of long-time Senator Jackie Winters in early 2020. Her participation in the republican walk-out of 2020 may have played a role in this close race.
Overall, the make-up of the State Senate will likely stay the same at 18 D – 12 R. Republicans will pick-up one seat in the House and move the make-up to 37 D – 23 R. Democrats will continue to hold a super majority in both chambers, but fail to meet their goal of controlling chamber quorums. It is yet to be known if walk-out tactics will be used by Republicans in the 2021 legislative session, especially if remote modalities continue to be utilized.
State Ballot Measures
There were four measures on the ballot this election, all passed with significant leads on Tuesday. Measures 107 and 108 were legislative referrals, while Measures 109 and 110 were initiative petitions.
- Measure 107 amends the Oregon Constitution to allow for stricter campaign finance regulation;
- Measure 108 increases tobacco taxes, including for e-cigarette (vaping) devices, creating about $150 million in new state revenue;
- Measure 109 allows for regulated, medical use of psilocybins (hallucinogenic mushrooms); and
- Measure 110 lessens criminal offenses for some drug possessions and creates more funding for statewide addiction/recovery services through existing marijuana tax collection.
For more Oregon election results, please see the Oregon Secretary of State website.