Writings and observations

OR: Primary dead ahead

Tuesday night, the last of the ballots are scooped up, and the results (most of them anyway) are announced. Except for very close races, the results will be known soon after the 8 p.m. deadline passes.

So what to watch for? Here’s where our attention will be focused on Tuesday night.

1 – House 48 (D) – Mike Schaufler (inc), Jeff Reardon (ch). This must be the hottest legislative primary in Oregon this year, a fierce and intensively fought contest in, roughly, southeast Portland – in a district quite a bit different than the one the incumbent, Schaufler, is used to. About a dozen other Democratic House members have lined up for Schaufler’s opponent, Reardon, in an unusual display of determination to oust him. The Oregonian notes that “The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is cranking out mailers attacking Schaufler’s environmental votes as well as an incident involving Schaufler and a female lobbyist that led to the loss of his House co-chairmanship. One flier features him in league with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.” But Schaufler, who has held a seat here since 2002, is not without friends of his own, or campaign skills. Our betting edges toward Reardon, but not by much: This ranks as the most interesting primary contests in Oregon this year.

2 – Portland mayor (np, open) – Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, Jefferson Smith, 20 others. Writing about this a week ago, the uneasy prediction was that Hales will be the odd candidate out, and Brady and Smith proceed to November. We’re not changing that view yet, but this is a fluid race, and any of the three could realistically wind up third.

3 – Jefferson County Measure 17.43. This is a public safety ballot issue, and also a proposal to raise property taxes in a county that hates property taxes – and where almost all other options to keep the most basic of county services funded have been exhausted. Win other lose, this ballot issue will have statewide resonance.

4 – Clackamas County chair (np) – Dave Hunt (ch), Charlotte LeHan (inc), John Ludlow (ch), Paul Savas (ch). What a contest this has been, and it speaks to the rapid growth in Oregon’s third-largest county, its currently eruptive anti-tax Republican activism, and what has been a longer-term Democratic shift. The oddity is that it features an incumbent, Charlotte Lehan, who on her own seems not to have been especially controversial (though one blogger describes her “deaf ear for public sentiment,” for which some evidence is available). But her opponents come from all over the board: Former Democratic House speaker Hunt, who has drawn support not only from Democratic quarters but also an Independent Party endorsement; Paul Savas, a commission member who has gotten a lot of the conservative support (though the Oregonian, in endorsing him,m described him as a centrist); and Wilsonville Mayor John Ludlow. Political hacks will be poring over these results for weeks.

5 – Attorney General (D, open) – Ellen Rosenblum, Dwight Holton. It’s a statewide office, and has gotten some attention, but the main excitement seems to have been over which of them is more receptive to medical marijuana law (the thinking is Rosenblum, but the evidence is ambiguous). A moderately interesting race, but what will it teach us, other than (maybe) some reflection of attitudes about pot?

6 – Senate 27 (R) – Chris Telfer (inc), Tim Knopp (ch). It can’t be said – or rather, it shouldn’t be said, since it has been said – that Telfer is anything other than a loyal Senate caucus Republican, who only very occasionally breaks from the pack – no more than several others do. But the challenge from former legislator Knopp in the bigger picture has the look of a coalition of conservative forces (which does include two state representatives from the area) operating on loyalty politics – some of his backers describe Telfer as a Democrat. This is the premier party-loyalty battle in Oregon this year. (The guess here: Knopp wins.)

7 – Lane County Commission, seat 4 (np) – Rob Handy (inc), Pat Farr. Referencing back here to our April 29 piece on this contest between, in a race for a nonpartisan seat, a hot battle between a functional Democrat (that would be the incumbent, Handy) and a functional Republican (Farr).

8 – Portland city council seat 1 (np) – Amanda Fritz (inc). Mary Nolan (ch). You have an incumbent and a challenger, but even that is a little misleading here. Both Fritz and Nolan have views that you might expect of mainstream Portland city candidates, but their structural roles are a little different than you might expect. Fritz, closing out her first term, was the only candidate so far to win Portland city office using public financing, and in some ways seems to have been an outsider since. Nolan, on the other hand, woud be a new council member, but has been a veteran Idaho House member (since 2001), and has been majority leader there. It looks like a close race.

A lot more interesting as a contest than the race for seat 4, which is open. There, attorney Steve Novick – who would become overnight the most interesting member of the city council – is almost certain to win election, and probably will win outright on Tuesday; there are no other strong candidates in that race.

9 – House 36 (D, open) – Sharon Meieran, Jennifer Williamson. After Schaufler/Reardon, this race – to replace Mary Nolan, now running for the Portland council – has become one of the highest-profile of Portland-area legislative races, and its core debate subject is highly pertinent: health. Meieran, who has been a lawyer, has been more recently an emergency room physician. Williamson was and is an attorney, with some expertise in education, including for state entities (Department of Education, Portland State University) and appearing before the legislature: Lobbying. Williamson’s campaign got proactive on the definitional front http://www.oregonlive.com/mapes/index.ssf/2012/04/is_it_a_smear_to_call_an_orego.html, saying in one mailer, “Insurance companies are ready to spend a fortune to smear Jennifer Williamson as a ‘lobbyist.'” Meieran forces shot back, decrying the implication that she was an insurance-backed candidate. So we have a doctor (who used to be a lawyer) against a lawyer (who has lobbied), in a campaign that could be an interesting test of which definitions resonate better. The lessons may not be a lot broader than that: They’re both running as left-of-center Democrats in a left-of-center Democratic district. (Meieran seems to have gotten the weight of the endorsements.)

10 – U.S. House 3 (R) – Ronald Green, Delia Lopez. There’s a notable lack of suspense this year in the primaries for Oregon’s congressional offices (and may be again in November). The temptation to include one was too great to resist, though, and this one – the race for the apparently worthless Republican nomination in District 3 (that would be the overwhelmingly Democratic district anchored by Portland, the seat held by Democrat Earl Blumenauer). One of the candidates, a first-timer, was Green, a TriMet bus driver; the other is Lopez, who has run for this seat (and been Republican-nominated) twice before – from the small rural community of Oakland, a couple of hours away from District 3.

Lopez is personable, but, well, she doesn’t live even close to the district. Green has no great credentials for Congress, but he does live in the district, and he has a platform (mainly relating to higher tariffs) that relate to economic conditions and action Congress might take. Question: Are the few District 3 Republicans so dispirited that they vote by rote, and give Lopez the nomination again?

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