Image for Oregon Could Help Republicans Regain House Control
Control of the US House could ride on the election results in 19 open congressional seats, including three in Oregon that Republicans have targeted.

Oregon’s Three Open Seats Are Among 19 GOP Targets

Republicans only need to flip five US House seats to regain control from Democrats. Three of those crucial seats could be in blue Oregon.

Pollsters foresee a Republican tide as election day approaches, buoyed by voter concerns over inflation and crime. Democratic momentum crested during the summer after the Supreme Court overruled Roe V. Wade and as gas prices dropped. Predictions of Republican congressional victories have now risen as high as 235, more than enough to displace Democrats in control of the 435-member House.

Midterm elections are almost always tough on the party in control, and this year looks no different – at least in the House. GOP efforts to reclaim control of the Senate aren’t so certain. The weathervane many political experts look at point to three tightly contested races in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada. The winner of two out of three is likely to control the Senate. The latest polls show Democratic candidates with narrow leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

There could be other potential surprises in Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio Senate races. Even senior Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray appears to be in a tighter than anticipated race. Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden faces a weak GOP opponent.

The New York Times took a look at the open seats, which could be the decisive battlegrounds for control of the House. There are only 59 competitive congressional seats nationwide and 19 of them are open seats. Oregon’s Fourth, Fifth and Sixth district congressional seats have general election contests without incumbents. Peter DeFazio didn’t seek re-election in the Fourth District and Fifth District Congressman Kurt Schrader was defeated in the May primary.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle is given a slight edge to succeed DeFazio, but her Republican opponent, Alek Skarlatos, has raised more campaign contributions based on his strong showing against DeFazio in the 2020 election.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner rode a wave of progressive support to defeat Schrader in the primary, but that wave may be swept over by Republican Lori Chavez-DeReemer, the former mayor of Happy Valley. McLeod-Skinner has faced a torrent of negative ads, financed by GOP-led PACs, and hasn’t had as much Democratic Party support to mount a counterattack.

In Oregon’s new Sixth District, Republican Mike Erickson, in his third congressional bid, is running neck-and-neck with Democrat Andrea Salinas, who chaired the Oregon House Redistricting Committee that shaped the new district’s boundaries. Negative ads about crime and abortion far outweigh issue-centered ads in this campaign fistfight.

Washington’s Third District is open after newcomer Joe Kent narrowly slipped by Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler to grab second place in the state’s top-two primary in August. Recent polling suggests Kent, a MAGA-style Republican endorsed by former President Trump, has a narrow lead over Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who like Kent is making her first run for public office. Prominent Herrera Beutler supporters are backing Perez and Kent has faced questioning over who he actually works for.

The well-regarded Cook Political Report lists five open seats as “likely Republican”. Four of those five seats were held this session by Democrats. There are three seats, including Washington’s Third District, in Cook’s “lean Republican” category. One of those was held by a retiring Democrat. The best chances for Democrats to knock off Republican incumbents are in California, Ohio, Nebraska, New Mexico and in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

The simple truth is the battle for the House is being fought on Democratic turf as Democrats amounted only token efforts to defeat GOP incumbents. In fact, Trump endorsees will likely defeat or scare off more Republican incumbents than Democrats defeat.

The Times concluded, “The overall math for House Democrats looks daunting, and open seats are a major reason.” Political gravity is hard to overcome.

Ten Senate seats are in play, including two open seats held by retiring Republicans, that will determine whether Democrats retain control of the upper chamber.

The forecast for the Senate is different, perhaps for the reason Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell observed – “the quality of the candidates”. Georgia Republican Herschel Walker has faced allegations he paid for abortions for two former girlfriends and allegedly threatened his wife with physical violence. Pennsylvania Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz has had a several stumbles, including how to handle his opponent John Fetterman’s auditory challenges as he recovers from a stroke in August. Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson has had trouble getting out of his own way on political messaging in his re-election bid.

On the Democratic side, Congressman Tim Ryan is running what is considered an off-brand campaign that appeals to blue collar workers instead of progressives in his quest to grab a Republican Senate seat now held by retiring Republican Rob Portman. Florida Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings, a former chief of police in Orlando, is making a spirited challenge to unseat Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

Early voting is occurring, including in vote-by-mail states such as Oregon and Washington. While negative advertising will have its effect, the most powerful campaign tactic in the final days of an election is voter turnout efforts. It’s not just a matter of how many voters turn out, but what voters turn out.

There is ample evidence Republican and Democratic partisans are highly motivated this election cycle, in part because of what it will set up for the 2024 presidential election that could feature a rematch between the current President and the former President.