Close Contests Make Oregon a Stop, Not a Flyover
High-profile political figures have uncharacteristically stumped in Oregon this election cycle as Republicans attempt to pluck a statehouse and two more congressional seats in a state considered reliably blue.
During most elections, Oregon is just a flyover. Not this year. President Joe Biden and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have campaigned in Oregon for Democrat Tina Kotek who faces a nail-biter election for governor against Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson. Drazan campaigned here over the weekend with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Johnson has held events featuring former Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski.
Close contests for governor, congressional seats and legislative seats have attracted big money and big names to Oregon this election cycle.
The outside help for Kotek, which includes a video by former President Obama, reflects how tight the gubernatorial election is as it heads into the final week before election day November 8. The attention reflects how seriously Democrats view the challenge to its grip on the governor’s chair since Republican Vic Atiyeh served two terms from 1979–1987.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy headlined a fundraiser in support of GOP congressional candidates Lori Chavez-DeReemer, Mike Erickson and Alek Skarlatos. Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is campaigning here this week for Democratic congressional hopeful Andrea Salinas. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who is chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, visited Oregon to campaign for Democratic congressional hopeful Jamie McLeod Skinner.
Big-name politicos show up if there are big-stakes campaign contributions on the table. The Oregon gubernatorial race has shattered previously spending records with more than $55 million in contributions, much of which has been invested in negative advertising. Competitive congressional races also have attracted large amounts of campaign cash.
Midterm elections have a record of being harsh on the party that holds the White House. Republicans hope that pattern continues allowing them to regain control of the House and possibly the Senate. Political observers predict Republicans will gain from 12 to 25 seats in the House. Two or three of those could be in Oregon. Various polls have indicated Chavez-DeReemer and Erickson hold leads in their respective Fifth and Sixth District races. Skarlatos is a longer-shot hopeful against Democrat Val Hoyle in the Fourth District where she is seeking to succeed retiring Congressman Peter DeFazio.
There also are some very competitive legislative seats that could shrink Democratic control in the House and potentially result in a partisan split in the Senate. Like higher-profile congressional races, some of the legislative contests have run negative TV ads, a sure sign of close races.