With the 2012 election now 13 months away, Oregon House leaders are aggressively recruiting candidates to run against incumbents or fill open seats. The stakes are high for leaders of the Oregon House. A swing of one seat for either party will ensure control of the chamber in 2013 when the legislature meets for its next full session.
House Co-Speakers Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, have displayed a great deal of bipartisanship as they shared control of a 30-30 House. But the real prize is outright control where one party sets the policy agenda, control committees and negotiates with the Senate and Governor.
That's what made the action last week to strip Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, of his co-chairmanship of House Business and Labor, so engrossing. If Schaufler, who is accused of groping a woman at the recent Oregon AFL-CIO convention, were to resign or not seek re-election over the incident, his House seat could become an immediate target of opportunity in the battle for control, even with a 19 percent Democratic registration edge. As it is, both Democratic and Republican leaders are cautiously optimistic of gaining control in 2013.
Democrats believe redistricting approved in the 2011 session gives them a leg-up in districts that Republicans grabbed from them in the 2010 "GOP landslide" election. For example, the Clackamas County seat held by Rep. Patrick Sheehan went from a 2.8 percent Democratic registration edge to 7.2 percent and the Bend seat held by Rep. Jason Conger went from 2.5 percent to 5.6 percent.
They also are confident they can grab back the seat held by Hillsboro freshman Rep. Katie Eyre Brewer. However, the Democratic nominee must survive a high-profile primary fight. Katie Riley, who lost to Eyre Brewer in 2010 and is the wife of former Rep. Chuck Riley, wants a rematch. However, political operative Ben Unger has decided to run for the seat. His family runs Unger Farms, a prominent local business.