The big Oregon political news on a really hyperlocal level on Tuesday was the election of Linda Watkins of Ridenbaugh Press to the Carlton (Oregon) City Council. It wasn’t totally unexpected, since she was one of three candidates for three positions, but it was local landmark nonetheless.
Beyond that, looking out across the expanse of America’s ninth largest (geographically) state, there weren’t exactly a lot of landmarks.
I could point to this: The expansion of Democratic control of the state legislature to the point of passing the three-fifths mark.
That’s significant, because passage of several types of financial measures, taxes mostly, require a three-fifths majority. And up to now, Democrats, who have controlled the legislature at least mostly for a generation, have been short of that, requiring at least some cooperation with the Republicans.
So far as I can tell (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) Democrats have hot hit that high level in both chambers since 1983. Regardless, it’s been many years.
That puts more onus of responsibility on the Democrats, so a cautionary note is warranted: Don’t get too eager. Overreach is often the mother of blowback elections a couple of years hence. And remember that Oregon has not had a more productive session in a generation than it did in 2010, the last time power was split between the parties (they were tied in the House).
That said, and assuming the Democrats keep their head, the 2018 election did seem to solidify ever more the blueness of the state. The new legislative peaks do not seem to represent a ceiling: They could go still higher. In the single biggest unforced political error of the year in the state, Democrats threw away a probable win in the Deschutes County area with a seriously flawed candidate; that same seat probably could be in 2020 with a better one.
This cycle saw a genuinely serious race for governor; the Republican challenger was the strongest the party has fielded in a long time, and probably the best available, period. He did respectably, keeping the race reasonably close, but still not well enough.
The federal races all wound up, as expected, with incumbents winning easily. But note this: While all the Democratic incumbents won with normal numbers, 2nd District Representative Greg Walden, a Republican in a deep red district, was down to 56.5% of the vote. That was enough for a decisive win, but compare it to his earlier percentages: 71.9% in 2016, 70.6% in 2014, 68.7% in 2012, and 74.1% in 2010. That’s a steep drop, and Republicans in the district would be remiss not to look into it. (So would Democrats.)
Not so long ago, Oregon was a closely competitive state where both parties had a shot at election, and the margins were found toward the middle. No longer. More Idaho races are moving into the same kind of competitiveness the Carlton City Council saw this week.