Representative Darlene Hooley's surprise announcement this morning that she's not running for re-election gives Oregon something it hasn't had for years: A truly wide open U.S. House contest.
There didn't seem to be any very specific impetus for the announcement. She said her health was good (a consideration at 68). She has won her last few races convincingly - though not overwhelmingly, her last win clocking in at about 54% - and looked in strong shape for this year. Her campaign treasury has an ample $467,540 on hand.
But her departure is a national rarity this year: A Democratic retirement from a seat that credibly could wind up in the hands of either party. But she pointed out specifically, in early news reports, that this year would be a good time politically - for her party - for a change, since 2008 looks like a strong Democratic year. She may be right that the timing tilts the field a bit.
So what's the picture in the Oregon 5th?
Look at the map and the first thing that jumps out is its odd shape, what with the two coastal counties (which tend Democratic) and the remote areas to the east in the Cascades (which tend more Republican). But the core of this district is close to Interstate 5, from the southern edge of Portland in the north down the road through and south of Salem. The bulk of the voters are in western Clackmas County, within a few miles of the Lake Oswego-West Linn-Oregon City-Canby/Wilsonville area, and a few miles to the south, clustered around Salem. (more…)