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OR: Senate vulnerables

Just one seat away from a tie, the Oregon Senate should not be forgotten as this year’s campaign wrangling gets underway.

OR political field guide
Based on material from the upcoming Oregon Political Field Guide

So, in a chamber held by Democrats on a narrow 16-14 margin, what do history and the stats tell us?

History hasn’t shown many partisan turnovers in recent cycles. There have been some big-turnover cycles, like 1994 (five seats to the Republicans, who took over)or 1958 (four to the Democrats, who took over), they’ve been sparse through most of Oregon history.

In the last decade, just four Senate seats switched sides. Two of those happened in 2010, both moving Republican: District 26 and District 26, both centered in Clackamas/Multnomah country. The other two were in 2004 which then each moved from Republican to Democratic. One was a mid-term election following the resignation of Republican Lenn Hannon, who was replaced by Democrat Alan Bates. The other, in District 5, was won by Democrat Joanne Verger, who after two terms is retiring from the Senate this year.

Of the Senate seats up for election this year, that District 5 seat in 2004 saw the closest election within the last decade: Verger then defeated Republican Al Pearn by just 1.44%. That and her retirement (and the fact that Republicans didn’t contest the seat at all in 2008) put it on the map as a seat to watch. Still, Democrats have a strong veter registration edge in 5 (by 41.52% to 31.57%), and their candidate is the current House co-speaker, Arnie Roblan, who has held the more competitive part of the district since 2004.

Here are the Senate seats, with incumbents, up for election:

1 R – Jeff Kruse
2 R – Jason Atkinson (opting out)
5 D – Joanne Verger (opting out)
9 R – Fred Girod
12 R – Brian Boquist
14 D – Mark Hass
17 D – Elizabeth Steiner Hayward
18 D – Ginny Burdick (unopposed)
21 D – Diane Rosenbaum
22 D – Chip Shields (unopposed)
23 D – Jackie Dingfelder (unopposed)
25 D – Laurie Monnes Anderson
27 R – Chris Telfer
28 R – Doug Whitsett (primary only)
29 R – David Nelson (opting out; primary only)
30 R – Ted Ferrioli (unopposed)

Four of the 16 are unopposed.

In terms of party registration, the most marginal of these districts with D/R contests is 27, the Bend-centered district where Republican Chris Telfer (who also has a primary challenge) is running in a Republican district, but the second-weakest among Republican districts (a registration edge of just 3.26%), a more marginal district than it was when she won in 2008 in a near-landslide.

Among Democrats, the next-closest seat in registration edge (after 5) is District 25, the east-Portland area held by Laurie Monnes Anderson, where the Democratic edge is 11.99%. That wouldn’t seem to put the seat into particularly vulnerable territory, but Anderson was held short of 60% of the vote in both 2004 and 2008, and the two House seats in the district have (unusually among Oregon Senate districts) split between the parties; in 2010, both House seats here changed partisan control. History suggests 25 is worth watching.

In all, though, not many of these 16 seats seem to offer very promising targets to the challenging party. (Most of the other incumbents up have a history of landslide wins in favorable districts.) It’ll largely be up to strong campaigns, and maybe mistakes on someone’s part, to change that.

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