Image for Hass, Fagan in Close SOS Race as Bentz, Tax Measures Fare Well in Primary

In the premier race of the 2020 Oregon primary, Mark Hass and Shemia Fagan, both state senators, are nearly deadlocked for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state as final ballots are being counted. Tuesday’s election was a good day for tax measures, but not so good for legislative challengers backed by public employee unions. Clackamas County voters tossed out the incumbent county commission chair and State Senator Cliff Bentz defeated Knute Buehler for the Republican nomination in Oregon’s Second Congressional District.

Today, Oregon lawmakers received the quarterly economic and revenue report showing the COVID-19 economic lockdown is projected to reduce state revenues by $2.7 billion in the current biennium and $4.48 billion in the 2021-2023 biennium. In Tuesday’s elections, Oregon voters approved 29 local tax measures.

Hass enjoyed a comfortable lead in early voting over Fagan, but his margin eroded through the evening, shrinking to 2,000 votes (35.96% to 35.55%) with more votes yet to be counted, including from Multnomah County where Fagan is strongest. An automatic recount occurs if the margin of victory is no more than 0.2 percent of the total votes case for both candidates. With backing from public employee unions, Fagan sharply outspent Hass and Jamie McLeod-Skinner from Central Oregon who came in third with 28 percent of the Democratic votes.

Hass or Fagan will face Senator Kim Thatcher, who easily won her GOP primary, in the November general election. Bev Clarno was appointed to fill the remainder of Dennis Richardson’s term after he died from brain cancer. Clarno had agreed not to seek election to the post when she accepted the appointment.

Democratic Senator Ginny Burdick and Rep. Rob Nosse, both of Portland, withstood primary challenges from candidates with public union backing.

Senator Cliff Bentz, an Ontario lawyer and alfalfa farmer, turned back a bid by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler to win the Republican nomination and a likely path to succeed retiring Congressman Greg Walden.

Bentz, an Ontario lawyer and alfalfa farmer, fended off Buehler, Jason Atkinson, Jimmy Crumpacker and a handful of lesser known Republican candidates, despite being outspent by two of his rivals. Buehler raised $1.3 million and Crumpacker raised almost $850,000. Willamette Week reported Crumpacker’s parents donated $125,000 to a political action committee then ran attack ads against Buehler. Bentz is expected to win the seat in the heavily Republican district that is represented by Congressman Greg Walden, who is retiring at the end of this term.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley ran unopposed in the primary and congressional incumbents Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio easily outdistanced their respective primary opponents. Jo Rae Perkins, who captured the GOP nomination to challenge Merkley, earned day-after national attention as a QAnon supporter.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, received nearly 70 percent of the vote, while Bernie Sanders tallied almost 20 percent and Elizabeth Warren earned almost 10 percent. More than 9,000 Oregon Democrats voted for Tulsi Gabbard.

Voters in Metro approved a new wealth tax to address homeless issues in the Portland metropolitan area. Portland voters approved extending a local gas tax for four more years. Washington County approved levies for public safety and renew funding for its network of 16 libraries. Tigard okayed a local option levy to add eight new patrol officers and a school resource officer and fund training for de-escalating potentially explosive situations.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler appeared to win re-election without a fall runoff, though it was too close to call. Wheeler collected 51 percent of the vote over his closest challenger, Sarah Iannorone, who sued the mayor for exceeding voter-approved campaign contribution limits. Wheeler was fined $500 by the city auditor the day before the election for using an unreadable small font to list his campaign donors. Wheeler needs 50 percent plus one to avoid a runoff.

Longtime community leader Carmen Rubio claimed Position 1 on Portland City Council, becoming the first Latinx candidate to win a Council seat. Rubio will replace Commissioner Amanda Fritz who didn’t seek re-election. The other two contested Council races are headed to fall runoffs. In Position 2, the vacant seat formerly held by the late Nick Fish, it appears Loretta Smith and Dan Ryan will face off in August to fill the vacant seat. Smith won 19 percent of the vote and Ryan collected 17 percent. In Position 4, incumbent Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, with 31 percent of the vote, will go against challenger Mingus Mapps, with 29 percent, in the fall general election. Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams came in third with 28 percent.

Three Multnomah County Commission incumbents were re-elected – Sharon Meieran, Jessica Vega Pederson and Lori Stegmann. Mike Schmidt was elected Multnomah County district attorney.

Veteran Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle will face a run-off challenge in the fall against Beaverton City Councilwoman Lacey Beaty, a former combat medic who called for fresh leadership in the western suburban city. Meanwhile, voters approved a charter change replacing a strong mayor with a city manager form of government.

In Clackamas County, Tootie Smith unseat incumbent Commission Chair Jim Bernard, whom she accused of profiteering off the office. Commissioner Martha Schrader defeated two challengers to win re-election, but Commissioner Ken Humberston may face a runoff this fall. Wilsonville voters approved a measure imposing term limits on its city councilmen.

Treasurer Tobias Read, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, will have a rematch this fall with Republican Jeff Gudman. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who also ran unopposed, will run against Republican Michael Cross, a non-attorney who was active in the unsuccessful recall of Governor Kate Brown, in the general election.

There were some high-profile legislative races. Peggy Stevens captured the GOP nomination in suburban House District 26 to challenge Rep. Courtney Neron who in 2018 upset incumbent Republican Rich Vial. Dr. Lisa Reynolds defeated longtime Oregon teacher lobbyist Laurie Wimmer for the Democratic nomination in House District 36 in Portland. Political newcomer Khanh Pham swamped former Multnomah Commission Chair Jeff Cogen in Portland’s House District 46 Democratic primary. Kate Lieber, a former prosecutor, easily turned away Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 14, which is now held by Hass.

Sixteen Senate seats and all 60 House seats will be decided in the general election. Four of the Senate races will be to fill seats being vacated. One of the races will feature an appointed incumbent seeking to retain a Senate seat. Three Senate races have incumbents running unopposed in both the primary and general elections. Only three of the contested seats (South Coast, Salem area and Bend) are in swing districts.