The 2023 session of the Oregon Legislature starts Jan. 17, with a new governor and new state lawmakers.
The election results were certified Thursday by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.
Republicans' hope for a "red wave" to significantly change the Democrats' hold on power in Salem didn't materialize. The new Legislature returns with Democratic majorities, though the Republicans picked up two seats in the House and one in the Senate.
The new partisan division of 35-25 in the House and 17-13 in the Senate means that for the first time in four years, Democrats won't be able to muster the three-fifths vote required for tax and other financial legislation without Republican help.
A clutch of closely fought legislative races saw the parties trade traditional territories, with political trends often mixed when key local races were taken into account.
Democrats won a second House seat east of the Cascades, while Republicans flipped House and Senate seats in the Northwest. The Ashland area remains a Democratic island in the far south of Oregon, while Republicans have taken Coos County seats held by Democrats.
Elections are decided by voters. Population matters more than acreage. But a look at the wins and losses in Oregon legislative contests shows a changing geographic footprint beyond the Willamette Valley.
Some highlights of a closer look at the election results:
GOP Northwest trifecta
Republicans flipped a Senate seat and a House seat in the northwest "thumb" of the state around Astoria.
Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, won the Senate District 16 seat previously held by Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who resigned from the Senate and the Democratic Party to make an unsuccessful unaffiliated bid for governor.
Republican Cyrus Javadi eked out an 844-vote win out of 34,889 votes cast to keep Weber's House District 32 seat in the GOP side of the aisle.
Redistricting of neighboring House District 31 tilted the voting trend to the right enough that Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, abandoned his seat to make an unusual and unsuccessful run for a Salem-area House seat. The race was won by Republican Brian Stout, who racked up 59% of the vote.
Stout's win came amid a Columbia County Circuit Court judge upholding a sexual abuse protective order against Stout. Some House Democrats have called on Stout to step aside so Republicans could choose a replacement.
House leaders in both parties are also discussing how Stout's presence in the Capitol would be handled if he does take his seat.
The three northwest Oregon districts include parts of Tillamook and Columbia counties, which are among the fraction of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States that have shown a political "pivot" in recent presidential elections. The counties went for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, then flipped to Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Mixed results in Deschutes
After Democrat Jason Kropf flipped House District 54 and Democrat Phil Chang defeated incumbent Republican Phil Henderson for county commissioner in 2020, Democrats felt that voting had finally caught up with voter registration trends in the booming Central Oregon area around Bend. Joe Biden was the first Democrat to win a majority of the county's presidential vote since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
The story was more mixed in 2022. Under redistricting, Kropf easily won a second term in his even more heavily Democratic-leaning district. House District 53 was up for grabs after Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, opted not to seek another term in a district that centered on a more Democratic-friendly area around just Redmond and Bend. Democrat Emerson Levy eked out a win of just over 500 votes against Republican Michael Sipe.
But Republicans held onto two Deschutes County commissioner seats with wins by incumbents Patti Adair and Tony Debone. Though Democrats have a nearly 3,300 voter registration edge over Republicans, unaffiliated voters are the largest group, making up just under one-third of the electorate.
Coos County to the right
Republicans extended their political hold on the south coastal county of nearly 65,000 residents, dominance that began with a legislative sweep in 2020.
Republican Rod Taylor ousted incumbent Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins, a Democrat, giving the GOP all three seats on the county's top government body.
Commissioners are officially nonpartisan, but Cribbins is a Democrat who lost the 2020 race for Senate District 5.
Taylor's political profile jumped after reports he was with a group from Bandon that was outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
Taylor has said he did not take part in the storming of the building. He was arrested for a separate curfew violation in Washington, D.C., later that day. But he touted his presence at the rally in his campaign against Cribbins.
The campaign by Taylor also hit on the theme that those in government, including Cribbins, were responsible for restrictions such as COVID-19 pandemic closures.
"I feel compelled to bring my involvement to an official capacity, to play a role reinstating and restoring the Liberty and opportunity that is divinely, constitutionally ours," Taylor said on his campaign website.
Taylor's win solidified Republican gains in Coos County. Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, and Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, both opted not to seek reelection in 2020. Both seats were won by Republicans.
Roblan had represented the area in the House from 2005 to 2013, then moved to the Senate. He won reelection to the Senate in 2020 by just 349 votes over Dick Anderson of Lincoln City. Anderson won the open seat over Cribbins in 2020. Republican Boomer Wright won McKeown's House seat in 2020 and was re-elected in 2022.
Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to take Coos County in a presidential race, winning in 1992 and 1996. Republicans have won every presidential vote since 2000. Trump won 57% of the county vote in 2016 and increased that margin to just under 59% in 2020.
Democrats retain Ashland
On a political map of Oregon, Ashland is a blue island surrounded on all sides by Republican red districts. The GOP targeted the area as ripe for a pick-up in 2022.
But Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, held the Senate District 3 seat with a 52% to 48% win over Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino.
Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, whose district makes up the major Democratic-leaning areas of Golden's overlapping Senate seat, was easily reelected with 65% of the vote over Republican Sandra Abercrombie.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.