The outlook for a Republican re-control of the Oregon House continues to worsen: Representative John Dallum, R-The Dalles, said today he will resign as of the end of the month. He had been thought likely to run again; as it is, a Republican successor will likely be named in August.
Politics and the shift to the minority evidently aren’t the reason. An e-mail that went to The Dalles Chronicle explained, “I have been offered a job in Valier, Montana, a town that is less then two hours away from my grandkids! Dorthy and I could not pass up the opportunity to move back to Montana where we could be close to family.”
There is political impact, however.
This is a big (geographically) district, running from John Day to west of The Dalles (just missing Hood River). It’s classic east-of-Cascades country, sparsely populated, landscaped with deserts, mountains and the occasional forest. It is classic too in its usual political leanings, solidly Republican.
Dallum was appointed to the House in June 2004, then won the general election that year with 58.3% of the vote, about what you might expect for a first-time candidate in this Republican district. He won all nine counties except little Gilliam, which occasionally has been known to flip Democratic. The 2006 election threw something of a question mark into the picture, though, when Democrat Jim Gilbertson held Dallum to 50.6% of the vote. It was one of the most striking results of the year in northwest legislative races.
Was it a fluke? Gilbertson, who also ran in 2002 and lost to Republican John Mabrey, held the Republican that year to 55.1%, and won Wasco County, which contributes more votes than any other in the district. In 2006, Gilbertson again won Wasco and also Jefferson – those two counties contribute more than half of the district’s vote total – as well as Gilliam.
And in 2008? Well, the votes in Wasco and Jefferson that Gilbertson has been getting came in great part from the new recreation areas, the fastest-growing parts of this district. If lately Democrats fell just a little short here, they might not in the next cycle or two: The local demographics seem to be on their side, bleed-over in part from Hood River.
That’s not a prediction this seat will necessarily go Democratic in 2008. It is a suggestion that it could, that Republicans will not be able to take it for granted, and may have to work to defend it. That wouldn’t have seemed likely just a few years back. All that may have been true with Dallum in place; his successor may have a tougher time.Share on Facebook