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Republicans believe they have a chance to reduce Democratic domination or even flip control of the Oregon Senate in the fall election in the midst of voter animation over abortion rights, gun regulation and an initiative to punish lawmakers who engage in walkouts to block legislation.

They Aim to Flip Control of the Oregon Senate

Despite legislative redistricting controlled by Democrats, Oregon Republicans believe they have a chance to regain control of the state Senate for the first time since 2002. Democrats currently control with an 18-member super-majority.

There are four open Senate seats resulting from retirements, only one of which is in a reliably red district. The Salem-area Senate seat held by retiring Senate President Peter Courtney is being sought by incumbent GOP Senator Kim Thatcher who lives in Keizer. The other two open Senate districts GOP eye as opportunities are on the North Coast and in the Springfield area. Fifteen Senate seats will be decided in the November election.

GOP Rep. Raquel Moore-Green is challenging first-term incumbent Democratic Senator Deb Patterson. Democratic Rep. Mark Meek is challenging Republican Senator Bill Kennemer in Senate District 20 in Clackamas County. Republicans also believe they could defeat Democratic Senator Jeff Golden in Jackson County. Seven Democratic incumbents are seeking re-election in relatively safe districts.

No Senate incumbents lost primary races in May. Eric Swenson, the mayor of Woodburn who won the Democratic primary in Senate District 11, withdrew after the primary, leading to a contentious battle to replace him. Richard Walsh, an attorney who finished second in the Democratic primary, was selected to oppose Thatcher in the general election.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has targeted several blue states to make legislative gains. In addition to Oregon, the targets include Washington, Colorado, Maine and Nevada. The group has given $140,000 in support of Oregon GOP legislative candidates.

Oregon Republicans believe they have a chance to regain control of the state Senate for the first time since 2002.

Campaign finance records indicate $2,500 contributions went to Thatcher, Kennemer and Moore-Green. Other challengers receiving $2,500 contributions include Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino who is challenging Golden and Sherwood real estate broker John Velez running against first-time Democratic candidate Aaron Woods, a retired Xerox executive for the Senate District 13 seat currently held by Thatcher.

Republicans, who are led in the Senate by Senator Tim Knopp of Bend, would view it as success if they could chip away at the supermajority now held by Democrats. A three-fifths majority (18 senators) allows one party to move revenue-related measures without votes from the opposing party. A 15-15 tie would require forming a coalition leadership in the Senate. That’s how Courtney began his nearly 20-year run as Senate President in the 2003 legislative session.

Legislative races will be influenced to some degree by the three-way open race for governor that offers clear choices on high-profile issues. For example, Democrat Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson, who is running as a non-affiliated candidate, are pro-abortion while Republican Christine Drazan is anti-abortion. Drazan and Johnson don’t favor gun regulations, while Kotek does.

The US Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade has made abortion access, both for in-state and out-of-state women, a galvanizing issue. Gun regulation advocates managed to qualify an initiative for the November election that will force candidates to talk about what they would and wouldn’t support.

The only other initiative on the ballot would bar lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences from seeking re-election. The measure is aimed at legislative walkouts like the ones Drazan orchestrated when she was House Republican leader. The same issues will filter down to contested legislative races, leading to questions about whether lawmakers from either party would agree to walkouts as a legislative tactic.