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The setup

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It’s been a long time since Oregon and Washington were home to more than at most a single seriously up for grabs congressional seat. This year, the states had a small pile of them.

Fewer are likely to be as seriously contested two years from now, but a couple probably will.

Washington has 10 House seats and Oregon (now) has six. A majority of the seats are clearly non-competitive, falling into either reliable Democratic (WA 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10 and OR 1 and 3) or Republican (WA 4 and 5 and OR 2) categories: Neither party is going to devote much effort into trying to preventing what would be a longshot effort to flip them.

Owing partly to redistricting, the remaining five districts in this year’s election were deemed close enough calls to draw national attention.

Looking ahead, one of them at least will clearly drop of the list, and another probably should.

Some early (and questionable) polling results showed OR 4 (the southwest, including Eugene and Corvallis) as tight and maybe even with a (deeply flawed) Republican candidate ahead; on that basis, it pulled in substantial national funding. The end result showed Democrat Val Hoyle winning by a not especially close 50.6% to 43.1% for the Republican. That’s enough to suspect that Hoyle, an experienced office holder, will have the district in hand two years from now, as outgoing Peter De Fazio long has had: Not with landslides, but with a stable majority.

WA 8 (eastern King and Pierce over to the Wenatchee area) probably is a similar story. It’s a close district in partisan makeup, and national prognosticators insisted through most of the recent campaign cycle in labeling it either a dead-even tossup or a slight Republican tilt; neither really made much sense (though it might have if the Republican nominee had been the stronger and better known Reagan Dunn). In the event, Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier defeated her opponent 53.3% to 46.3% in a challenging year; this district may be moving into write-it-off territory, even if no landslides should be expected there.

The district in the middle is the newest in the northwest, OR 6 (Salem, southwest Portland suburbs and small-town Yamhill County). For much of the last cycle national reviewers rated it a toss-up, and then gave Democrat Andrea Salinas a slight advantage; that late analysis proved about right. She was heavily outspent in the general and stressed by a big-money primary, but the district leans Democratic and the Republican nominee was uncommonly weak. With that in mind, Salinas’ win of 50% to 47.5% should be taken as more floor than ceiling: As an incumbent next time, she’ll have some room to grow support. This will not be a district Democrats can take for granted, but it’s a place they should win if they pay attention.

The two remaining districts were hotly contested this time, and there’s good reason to think they will be in 2024 – and realistically could go either way.

One is WA 3 in southwest Washington (centered around the Vancouver area). It has been held since the 2010 election by Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, who likely would have held it for the next two years as well if she had won her primary. For many national prognosticators, the analysis seemed to end there, and the district was written off as solidly Republican. They forgot a couple of significant data points. One was that the district has a centrist (probably gently Republican) feel to it: Herrera Beutler’s predecessor for the same number of terms she served (six) was a Democrat, Brian Baird. The other is the far right extremist views and connections of the Republican nominee this year, Joe Kent, which weren’t a match for this centrist district. In that contest, the close win (50.2% to 49.3%)by Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez makes solid sense. (This district should have been labeled, a couple of months ago, either as tossup or as tilt Democratic.)

What happens here in 2024? That could be up for grabs. The two main factors may be how well Perez performs and relates to her district: Does she sink in roots and support over the next couple of years? Equally, much will depend on whether the Republicans nominate a stronger candidate next time. Either way, this district could be on the short list of highly watchable districts next time around.

That’s also true for OR 5, which stretches south of Portland over the Cascades to include the Bend area. As a while this area leans lightly Democratic, owing to its Portland suburbs (some of them, anyway) and increasingly blue Bend. The race here was very close, won by Republican Lori Chavez-Deremer 51% to 48.8 over Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The forces backing Chavez-Deremer poured a small ocean of money into this race featuring two candidates neither especially well-known in the district; this may have been a case where the substantial money difference was decisive.

The partisan balance in the district is close enough that either party can plausibly win – as this race showed – but the new Republican incumbent will, somewhat like Democrat Perez to her north, find herself because the eight ball under normal circumstances. As in WA 3, a lot will depend on how well the incumbent fares over the next two years – the Republican-led House will not be of much help to her in this district – and what the Democrats do by way of finding an effective opponent. This district like WA 3 could be barn burner once again.

So, for once, it won’t do to ignore the Northwest politically – even in the upcoming presidential cycle.

 

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