A “Throw the Bums Out” Election? Not exactly.

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Despite all the current cultural and political turmoil, a lot less has changed with the election than you might think.

Nationally, after Tuesday’s election, despite Trump’s surprising win, Congressional delegations in most states in January will look pretty much almost exactly like they do now.

Similarly, in Oregon, despite the crushing defeat of Measure 97, backed by unions and Democrats, and Republican Dennis Richardson’s success in the Secretary of State race, the make-up of the next state Legislature will hardly change.

At the national level, races were competitive on Tuesday in only 40 of the 435 seats in the House, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report. Many seats were so safe for one party or the other that there was only one candidate.

Some of that may be due to skillful gerrymandering of congressional districts, but it may also be due to the increasing tendency of people of a like mind congregating in the same geographies, the birds of a feather flock together trend.

Americans may say they prefer living in diverse communities, but the Pew Research Center says people don’t practice what they preach.

“Americans are increasingly sorted into think-alike communities that reflect not only their politics but their demographics,” Pew said in a January 2016 report.

That’s certainly true of Oregon.

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC), a state-oriented national organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures, identified the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives as targets in the 2016 elections. You’d never know it.

Senate

A total of 16 seats out of the 30 in the State Senate were up for election in 2016. Of the 16 seats, Democrats fielded unopposed candidates in five and Republicans fielded unopposed candidates in two. In other words, voters really had no choice in almost half the seats.

Meanwhile, 4 incumbents—one Republican and three Democrats—didn’t run for re-election. Only one of those seats had competition between a Democrat and a Republican in the general election.

That meant there were only 9 Senate seats where there was competition between Republican and Democratic candidates. Incumbents won seven of those races. The other 2 seats were open races. In one case, Republican Senator Doug Whitsett decided unexpectedly to leave politics. In the other case, Democrat Senator Alan Bates died.

According to Ballotpedia, incumbents almost always win re-election in state legislative elections. Since 1972, except for one year, the win rate for incumbents hasn’t gone below 90 percent.

House

 All 60 seats in the Oregon House were up for election in 2016. Democrats fielded candidates unopposed by Republicans in one district and Republicans fielded candidates unopposed by Democrats in five districts. So voters really had no Republican vs. Democrat choice in 20 percent of the seats.

That meant only 24 House races involved competition between Republican and Democratic candidates. Incumbents who ran won every single one of their races. In the seven districts where no incumbent ran, the winner was from the same party in every case. No revolution there.

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What does all this mean? In Oregon, there will be some new faces, but the ideological split will likely remain pretty much unchanged. Maybe that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Democrats will still control both chambers of the Oregon Legislature. However, they lost their chance to pick up an extra seat in the House to secure the three-fifths majority necessary to potentially pass bills to raise taxes without Republican support.

With the defeat of Measure 97, that hobbles the Democrats’ ability to go it alone on taxation alternatives.

As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

 

Oregon’s Republican Party is committing suicide

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It’s hard to watch a party self-destruct.

If you look at all the races on the Oregon ballot on Nov. 8, it’s clear that the Republican Party has largely abdicated its position as the loyal opposition.

It starts at the top with the U.S. Senate race. Anybody know who the Republican candidate is? His name is Mark Callahan. I can tell you he went to OSU. But his website doesn’t list any events he’s attending and OpenSecrets.org reports he has raised just $15,852 (compared with Democrat Ron Wyden’s fundraising total of $11.4 million).

The 3rd and 5th District races for the House of Representatives aren’t any better.

In the 3rd, which includes most of Multnomah County, including Portland east of he Willamette, 10-term Democrat Earl Blumenauer is opposed only by Progressive Party candidate, David Delk, who says he has no experience. OpenSecrets.org reports he has raised nothing (compared with Blumenauer’s fundraising total of $1.1 million). Of course, the 3rd has been held by a Democrat since January 1937.

In the 5th, the Republicans did manage to recruit Colm Willis to run against Democrat Kurt Schrader. Willis has deep Oregon roots, graduated from Willamette University’s School of Law and worked as a staff member on a U.S. Senate committee, but he has raised just $239,113 (compared with Schrader’s $1.6 million)

How about the governor’s race?

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Bud Pierce

Bud Pierce may be a great doctor and a nice guy, but he was invisible statewide, a cipher, until this election. He’s managed to raise $2.5 million, but Brown has raised $3.5 million and Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982.

An OPB poll released on Oct. 17 showed that Brown leads Pierce by an astonishing 46 percent to 33 percent. This despite the fact that even Willamette Week offered faint praise for Kate Brown, declaring, “Brown’s greatest political strength is her affability—and her ability, so far, to blame problems on her predecessor.”

Work your way down the Oregon ballot and it gets worse, with many Democrats facing NO republican opponent.

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC), a state-oriented national organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures, identified the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives as targets in the 2016 elections. You’d never know it.

In the Oregon State Senate races, there’s no Republican candidate in the 14th, 18th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Districts.

In House races, there’s no Republican candidate in the 9th, 27th, 34th, 35th, 36th, 42nd, 43rd, 44th, 45th, 46th, 47th and 49th Districts.

How in hell the Republicans ever hope to recover power in Oregon under these circumstances is beyond me. And that’s not healthy for Oregon. One party dominance leads to corruption, cronyism, recklessness and abuse of power.

The thing is, if the Republicans would focus on building a strong bench, skillfully build public awareness of those with the greatest potential, encourage them to run for office and back them up with ample financial support, they can win and change the dynamic of state politics.

Look at the 2010 race between Democrat John Kitzhaber and Republican Chris Dudley. Despite some clear errors in strategy and execution, Dudley captured 694,287 votes, only 22,238 fewer than Kitzhaber’s 716,525. Damn close. More promising for the Republicans, Dudley carried all but 7 of Oregon’s 36 counties.

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Blue counties: won by Kitzhaber;                 Red counties: won by Dudley

Lane and Multnomah Counties, two Kitzhaber won, may be a lost cause for Republicans, but if Dudley had been able to peel off more votes in the other 5 he might well have won.

In other words, offer appealing, moderate candidates, back them up with financial resources, run strong campaigns across Oregon and Republicans can win.