Among the 10 Oregon legislative races we highlighted a few weeks back, one of the more problematic was the race for the district 39 House seat, now held by House Majority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby. Scott is a central leader in the Oregon House, a formidable personality, and apparently well-entrenched in his district.
Or maybe the entrenchment is more apparent than concrete. Scott won with 56.8% in 2004, and only eked out 51.5% in 2002, hardly powerhouse numbers. The senator whose district includes House 39, Kurt Schrader, took 55.6% in his last run, in 2002. Schrader is up for re-election this year, but is unopposed - not a good situation by itself for Scott, since Schrader has some direct reason for preferring to see him ousted. Scott and Schrader were the co-chairs of the legislature's budget committee last session, and things didn't exactly go smoothly.
The district has been changing too; the region around Oregon City and Canby has been shifting fast from its exurban and agricultural roots to a more clearly suburban mix. That doubtless has been affecting the politics of the area too.
With these points in mind, we checked out a Saturday campaign event by Mike Caudle, the Democrat running against Scott. He seems to have entered the race initially with the idea that he'd be a longshot, but since then several things have changed. Some of them, including blog questions about Scott's business, the incumbent seems to have gotten past without trouble. But Caudle has been organizing hard, raised upwards of $20,000 by September 1 - enough to do some serious campaigning - and points to internal polling suggesting Scott is vulnerable. (The early polling gave Scott a 46%-25% lead, Caudle said, but much less after various specific issues are raised.)
And then came the string of Oregonian headlines last week about the batch of legislators who took a relaxing trip to Hawaii on the dime of the state's beer and wine distributors, and then failed to report it as they should have. Caudle, whose case against Scott has for some time been that he's too close to established interests, said that his phone has been running hard since those headlines hit.
The event itself, held in the ballroom a remodeled older Oregon City building, attracted just a modest crowd, two dozen or so. (It did conflict with a key Oregon State football game.) That was largely made up for by the passion in the room, where the speakers also included a group of local Democratic legislators (including Schrader) and Governor Ted Kulongoski.
This looks like a live race.