Flip or flop?
One week from today, Oregon voters will know if they are witnessing a major flip of the political balance of power or just seeing a mildly different mix of leaders in Salem and Washington.
Republicans dream of a big flip — winning the Oregon governorship, enough U.S. House seats in the state to fuel a GOP takeover of the chamber in D.C., and the Legislature going from total Democratic control to new partisan numbers that require dealing with Republicans, or perhaps even sharing power.
Republican governor candidate Christine Drazan released her “closing” ad on Monday and it repeats the mantra of dissatisfaction she says voters are telling her. “This is it, we can’t do this anymore,” Drazan says in the ad. “So I have one question. Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
Democrats are digging in to hold their territory, saying that the GOP flip will be more of a flop. Summertime boasts went so far as to say lightning-rod issues like abortion and gun control would make 2022 an exception to the rules of political gravity that usually bring down the party of a sitting president.
Now, Oregon Democrats are more content with projecting that the “red wave” of Republican victories will be more of an ankle-splasher than a tsunami.
A key approach late in the campaign: Tying Drazan and other Republican candidates to supporters with links to right-wing extremism and allegiance to former President Donald Trump, who was crushed in Oregon during his 2020 reelection campaign, with Democrat Joe Biden receiving 56% of the vote and Trump 40%.
“The people most intent on getting Christine Drazan elected are beholden to Donald Trump and will keep peddling his dangerous rhetoric,” Kotek said Monday.
But it is hard for most Oregonians to remember an election in which this many races were this close this late.
The measure of any change starts with the status quo:
Gov. Kate Brown is a Democrat, just like every governor since 1987.
Every executive office in the state is held by a Democrat.
The state House has a 37-23 Democratic majority (down from 38-22 after the 2018 election). Democrats hold 18 of the 30 state Senate seats.
Democrats hold a 220-212 majority with three vacancies in the U.S. House. All 435 seats are up, including six in Oregon, of which three have no incumbent.
The U.S. Senate has a 50-50 split, but Democrats are the majority party because Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, is the president of the Senate and can break some tie votes.
Oregon’s current delegation to Washington D.C. has four of five seats in the House held by Democrats. Both U.S. senators are Democrats.
In a Republican flip scenario, Drazan would win the three-way race with Kotek and nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state senator. The trio have raised a record-shattering $65 million for a barrage of ads.
Republicans could contribute to a GOP flip by winning as few as one of the congressional races in Oregon or as many and three. Any addition of Republican votes in the House will push the GOP toward winning back the majority it last lost in 2018.
In the Legislature, the big bet is on the Senate, where Republicans are seeking at minimum to push Democrats under 18 seats, ending their supermajority status, which allows them to pass tax and other bills without Republican support. A longshot — but one the Republicans are aiming to make — could see the party eking out a narrow majority, or more likely a 15-15 tie that would require power-sharing between the two parties.
The House, with its smaller districts and larger number of officeholders, is not expected to fall under Republican control. The goal is to push the Democratic majority under 36 seats, stripping it of its supermajority status and requiring negotiation on tax and other finance bills.
Under the Democratic scenario, Kotek would win a narrow victory for governor as Democrats who are currently considering Johnson shift to Kotek to stop Drazan from securing a Republican win.
In the state Senate, Democrats would hold their current 18 seats. A major flop for the GOP would be to not pick up any of the targeted Senate seats and see Republican Bill Kennemer to lose his seat in Clackamas County to Rep. Mark Meek, a Democrat seeking to move to the Senate.
The more volatile House usually pops a surprise or two on election night. If Democrats hold their three-fifths majority, that would be cause for disappointment among the troops of House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville. Her husband, consultant Bryan Iverson, is the architect of the legislative races.
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