Oregon primary election

Brown to Face Buehler in November

State Rep. Knute Buehler overcame more conservative GOP candidates to win the right to challenge incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown this fall in what could emerge as a marquee matchup this fall when a “Blue Wave” is anticipated nationally in the mid-term election after Donald Trump’s captured the White House in 2016.

State Rep. Knute Buehler overcame more conservative GOP candidates to win the right to challenge incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown this fall in what could emerge as a marquee matchup this fall when a “Blue Wave” is anticipated nationally in the mid-term election after Donald Trump’s captured the White House in 2016.

Oregon’s primary election didn’t excite voters as reflected by historically low turnout, but it did set the stage for what could be engaging contests in November.

Knute Buehler overcame a handful of more conservative GOP candidates to grab the Republican gubernatorial nomination, giving him a chance to carry on his vigorous campaign to unseat incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown.

Both wasted little time launching their general election campaigns. Before the votes were tallied Tuesday, Brown called for three formal debates and urged as many joint appearances as possible hosted by media outlets. Buehler scheduled a press conference Wednesday morning at the headquarters of Portland Public Schools to lambast a teachers’ union for “protecting a predator” who allegedly abused children and was transferred from school to school.

JoAnn Hardesty and Loretta Smith face a runoff in the fall for a Portland City Commission position, ensuring the election of the first African-American woman on the council.

Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington and Bob Terry will vie in November for the Washington County chair position. Terry is currently the Commission’s vice chair. Former lawmaker Ryan Deckert, whom some observers saw as the frontrunner, finished third in Tuesday’s voting.

All five Oregon congressional incumbents easily won their largely ceremonial primary contests. None seem in trouble in the general election, though Republican Congressman Greg Walden may face a spirited challenge from Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who defeated six other Democratic candidates to win the chance to poke at Walden for his support of Trump administration policies. Oregon Democrats have set up a website called “Repeal Walden,” a gibe at his leading role in the failed congressional attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Some races were settled in Tuesday’s voting. Shemia Fagan unseated five-term Democratic Senator Rod Monroe in a race that centered on affordable housing policies. With no Republican on the ballot in the East Portland Senate district, Fagan is basically a shoo-in this fall and will help tilt the Senate Democratic Caucus more to the left.

Former Eugene lawmaker Val Hoyle defeated long-time Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden to win the Oregon Labor Commissioner post, replacing Brad Avakian who didn’t seek re-election. Hoyle previously lost in her bid to become secretary of state, but now will become only the second woman to hold the Labor position in the 115-year history of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Lynn Peterson, a transportation planner and former chair of the Clackamas County Commission, cruised to an easy victory to become Metro president, replacing Tom Hughes who has served the maximum of two terms in the post. Nonprofit executive Juan Carlos Gonzalez received 55 percent of the vote to capture the Metro Council representing the western part of urbanized Washington County that Harrington has represented.

Kevin Barton handily defeated Max Wall for Washington County district attorney in what was one of the more visible local races. Barton, who is chief deputy district attorney, withstood a barrage of TV advertising from Wall, a former Polk County prosecutor and now a Beaverton criminal defense attorney. Election filings show the two candidates raised and spent around $900,000 in the campaign.

Pam Treece, executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance, defeated incumbent Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski. Former Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey won the Commission seat vacated by Terry.

Senate President Peter Courtney easily shrugged off a primary challenge, the first in a decade. Democrats hope to pick up a pivotal 18th Senate seat in Southern Oregon is a district where GOP Senator Alan DeBoer chose not to seek re-election. They also hope they can capture the Hood River House seat previously held by Rep. Mark Johnson who resigned to head the newly merged Oregon Business & Industry.

Oregon was one of four states holding a primary election Tuesday. Voting in Pennsylvania was marked by the primary victories of left-leaning candidates, including two members of the Democratic Socialists of America who won nominations in two Pittsburgh congressional districts. All of Pennsylvania’s 20 House seats are held by males, but that is expected to change with as many as four seats up for grabs for female candidates.

In Idaho, Democrat Paulette Jordan defeated an establishment candidate, running on a platform of protecting public lands, Medicaid expansion and relaxed marijuana laws. If Jordan prevails in November, she would be the state’s first Native American governor.

National Democrats are hailing Tuesday’s voting, noting larger turnouts and more voter enthusiasm for its candidates. The result of the voting, however, only produced one House Democratic gain in a special Pennsylvania congressional election.

Will Oregon Follow California and Advance Its Primary?

 California is moving up its primary from June to March to be a player in presidential politics. Oregon might follow along since being political afterthoughts in selecting a presidential nominee since 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy surged in Oregon and captured the California primary a few weeks later.

 California is moving up its primary from June to March to be a player in presidential politics. Oregon might follow along since being political afterthoughts in selecting a presidential nominee since 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy surged in Oregon and captured the California primary a few weeks later.

Even though many Americans are still recovering from the last presidential election, maneuvering has already begun for the 2020 election with California moving its primary from June to March to have greater influence on who is nominated. Oregon may follow suit.

Senator Ricardo Lara, the Democrat who carried the legislation that Governor Brown signed into law, said, “The intent of the bill was to put our voters at the front seat in choosing the next president and helping us drive a different agenda at the national level.”

In other words, California kingmakers are tired of Iowa, New Hampshire and a ring of southern states creating unstoppable presidential bids that may not reflect West Coast or progressive values. Oregon may catch the same fever and shift its primary forward from May to March to get some of the overlapping love from candidates attracting votes in California.

At present, Oregon is mostly a tarmac for presidential fundraising. Candidates dart into town, attend a couple of fundraisers and leave. They don’t even bother for media interviews.

California’s decision was met with lots of grumbling from early-voting states that have grown used to the prestige of being power brokers beyond their electoral punch. Party leaders have grumbled, too, because California cutting to the front of the presidential sweepstakes line is disruptive.

The election in 2016 of Donald Trump – and the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary – persuaded progressives that their voice needed to be added to the mix earlier in the process. Oregon doesn’t possess the same electoral clout, so its previous flirtations with an earlier presidential primary mostly evaporated into political thin air. However, with California moving up, Oregon might think it wise to join the party, like a barnacle attaching to a humpback whale.

While an earlier California primary could create major headaches for presidential campaign staffs and consultants – such as, how do candidates keep their messages straight in Georgia and the left Coast in the same news cycle, voters out west will probably be glad to have a more compelling voice in the choice of presidential nominees.

While Oregon’s primary is ahead of California’s, it’s been a long time since Oregon voters helped to decide a presidential nomination in either party. For Republicans, the 1976 presidential election was the last time Oregonians voted before there was a presumptive nominee. For Democrats, you have to go back to 1968 and the insurgent campaign waged by Robert F. Kennedy, who lost in Oregon, but won the California primary a few weeks later and may have gone on to become the nominee if he hadn’t been assassinated at his California victory party.

The timing of primary elections is linked to a drive by progressive forces to move toward direct popular election of presidential candidates and scrapping (or at least bypassing) the electoral college. Oregon has been part of that movement, too, which is tied up with a belief that a popular vote will force candidates to campaign everywhere, not just in early primary states and key swing states.

Trump admitted he shaped his campaign to win the states with the electoral college votes needed to win the presidency. If the election would have been determined by a direct popular vote, he said he would have campaigned more in California.

Candidates in the 2020 presidential, who are already jockeying for position, will have to spend more time in California – or even be from California – because of the state’s earlier primary.  It will be fun to see whether Oregon joins the parade, perhaps assuming it might boost the chances of an Oregon favorite son with presidential stars in his eyes.

Two Legislative Incumbents Face Stiff Challenges

It is unusual but not unheard of that two sitting legislators — a House Democrat and a Senate Republican — are facing stiff primary challenges. Even more unusual, both could lose in the May election.

Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, a member of the building trades, often parts company with his more liberal Democratic colleagues, as well as public employee labor organizations, such as SEIU and AFSCME.

Plus, last summer at a labor convention, he got into trouble when a female lobbyist claimed he groped her breast. Schaufler called it "innocent horseplay."  House Democrats took the incident seriously and stripped Schaufler of the chairmanship of House Business and Labor Committee.

Now many of Schaufler's Democratic colleagues are backing his primary opponent, Portland teacher Jeff Reardon, who has never run for political office before. 

Here's the way Oregonian political reporter Jeff Mapes described the high-stakes and money-laden Schaufler-Reardon race:

         The newly detailed disclosure reports show that — if money is indeed the mother's milk of politics — two incumbent legislators face tough reelection races. In a House district including parts of Southeast Portland and Clackamas County, six Democratic legislators took the rare step of writing campaign checks aimed at taking out one of their own colleagues, Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley. The six lawmakers wrote checks totaling more than $10,000 for high school teacher Jeff Reardon's race against Schaufler, who has departed from Democratic orthodoxy on some issues and also lost a committee co-chairmanship following a flap about his behavior at a labor convention. 'There's always a risk when you do something like this,' said Portland Senator Ginny Burdick, who gave $1,500 to Reardon. Portland Senator Chip Shields gave Reardon $5,000. Schaufler, who has released his own list of legislators endorsing him, continues to have strong support from several business and labor groups and maintains a fundraising lead over Reardon.

The other incumbent under fire is Senator Chris Telfer, R-Bend. She was surprised to learn just before the candidate-filing deadline that former representative Tim Knopp, now executive director of the Central Oregon Homebuilders Association, decided to run against her.