Of the 75 Oregon state legislative seats up for grabs this year - 15 Senate, 60 House - just six - all in the House are completely unopposed. That's a record for civic involvement neither Idaho nor Washington comes close to matching.
But it's not, to be fair, an indicator that very many legislative seats will change hands. Odds are that as in recent years, the number of seats where that happens will be relatively small. Our best projections call for little change in either Senate or House overall. Bearing all factors in mind, we think most likely either no change or a seat in one direction or the other (more likely Democratic) in the Senate, and some Democratic pickup in the House, though the crystal ball still hazes when it gets close to the finish line - whether or not Republicans retain control.
A relatively small number of seats should decide the issue. What follow are the 10 we consider the top legislative races in the state, weighing closeness, intensity and significance. They're listed by district.
First, a wild card: House District 24, a seat reliably and easily held this decade by Republican Donna Nelson. All the statistics suggest she'll be returned again. Yet ... keep a look out for the contest being waged by Democrat Sal Peralta, a McMinnville businessman who has been chair of the Yamhill County Democrats, and this year has been running an unusually organized, thorough and energetic campaign. No wild projections here, but - keep it on your radar screen.
Our pick Idaho races will appear next week, and Washington races soon after that state's primary.
Senate District 7, incumbent Vicki Walker, D-Eugene; challenger Jim Torrey, R-Eugene. Ain't gonna be anybody disputing this race's place on this list. Walker has been a boat-rocker among Democrats for years, a rare legislator on the verge of breaking out as a true statewide figure, who almost filed for governor against incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski. Which hasn't stopped TedK from campainging with her this season, and for good cause: She faces one of the best (maybe the best) legislative candidates the Republicans have recruited this year. Torrey, with a reputation as a moderate Republican (or define him as you will; his campaign materials have a Saxton-type sound to them), was mayor of Eugene for a decade and still would be if he'd wanted it. This looks like the Democratic Senate seat most at risk; at present, it feels too close to call. (more…)