OREGON NEWS, POLITICS

Several high-profile Oregon races remain too close to call Wednesday

Several high-profile Oregon races remained too close to call on Wednesday, but it appeared clear Democrats will maintain their legislative majorities. 

As of midday Wednesday, the Associated Press had not called the race for governor or the state’s three competitive congressional districts. The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday morning called the governor’s race for Democrat Tina Kotek, who led Republican Christine Drazan by almost 20,000 votes with at least 300,000 ballots left to count. 

The total number of outstanding ballots won’t be known until next week, as state law requires that ballots postmarked on Election Day that arrive within a week be counted. 

Kotek’s lead grew Wednesday morning as Multnomah County, the state’s most populous, reported more ballots. She captured more than 70% of the Multnomah vote, while Drazan hopes to make up votes as other counties, including Clackamas, report results Wednesday evening. 

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Drazan said she was still monitoring results. 

“We are grateful to the many thousands of Oregonians who made their voices heard in this historic election,” she said. “We continue to monitor returns with the expectation that this race will tighten.”

Here’s where other statewide races stand by early afternoon Wednesday:

Congress

Incumbent Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon handily won re-election, as did Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Cliff Bentz and Earl Blumenauer in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts. Bonamici and Blumenauer are Democrats; Bentz is a Republican. 

In Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, Democratic nominee Val Hoyle declared victory on Tuesday night. Hoyle, the state labor commissioner, led Republican and former Army National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos by 8 points Wednesday. The 4th District, which includes Eugene and southwestern Oregon, is represented until January by Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat. DeFazio, who held the seat since 1987, announced his retirement after redistricting made the district more favorable to Democrats.

In the 5th District, which spans from Portland to Bend, Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer still held a 3-point lead over Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Chavez-DeRemer captured nearly two-thirds of the vote in rural Linn and Marion counties, giving her an overall lead over McLeod-Skinner despite McLeod-Skinner’s edge in Clackamas and Deschutes counties. 

And in the 6th District, Republican supply chain executive Mike Erickson pulled closer to Democratic state Rep. Andrea Salinas as more results were posted. As of midday Wednesday, Salinas led Erickson by 2 points and fewer than 5,000 votes. 

State Senate

Democrats now hold 18 of the 30 seats in the state Senate, but Republicans started from a stronger position this election. Senators are elected for staggered four-year terms and only 16 seats were up for election this year (one Portland-area Senate seat needed a new senator to finish the remaining two years of a term after the senator elected in 2020 resigned). 

Five of the senators who didn’t run for election are Democrats, eight are Republicans and one is an independent who previously ran as a Republican. That meant Republicans needed to win seven races to tie the Senate or eight to capture a majority, which they failed to do. 

As of Wednesday, Democratic candidates were clearly winning 11 of the 16 seats up for re-election. In another district, the 20th Senate District in Clackamas County, Democratic state Rep. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone, held a slim lead of only a few hundred votes over incumbent Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Canby. 

Those results mean Democrats will likely hold 16 or 17 of the seats in the Senate come January, maintaining their majority but losing the three-fifths supermajority needed to pass any laws raising state taxes. 

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, praised the results in a statement Wednesday morning. 

“These results should give renewed optimism to every person in our state fighting for the wellbeing of hardworking Oregonians,” he said. “Soon, we will turn our attention to the 2023 Legislative Session and continue our work to support a brighter future for every community in our state.”

Election results indicate Republican state Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, will flip the 16th Senate District on the northwest coast that had long been held by Betsy Johnson, a former conservative Democratic state senator who ran for governor as a nonaffiliated candidate. And the north half of Salem, long represented by retiring Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney, appears likely to have a Republican senator: redistricting moved Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, into Courtney’s district and she held a strong lead over former Keizer City Councilor Rich Walsh. 

State House

Democrats are also on track to maintain their majority in the state House, where the eventual outcome of several races remained unclear. As of midday Wednesday, Democrats had commanding leads in 30 of the 60 districts, Republicans had strong leads in 20 districts and 10 remained close.

In the House, it takes 36 votes to pass tax legislation. 

The close House races include two Marion County races where Republicans lead in districts represented by retiring Democrats: Former Republican state Rep. Kevin Mannix leads Democrat Ramiro Navarro Jr. in the Salem-based 21st House District now held by Salem Mayor Chris Hoy, and Republican Tracy Cramer leads Democrat Anthony Medina in a Woodburn-based district represented by Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon. 

Three incumbent Democrats are in tough elections. Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, narrowly leads Republican Alan Stout, in the 7th House District and Rep. Zach Hudson, D-Troutdale, has a slim lead over Republican Randy Lauer in the 49th District and Rep. Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham, narrowly leads Republican Amelia Salvador in the 50th District. 

Democrats held slim leads in three open districts. Bend attorney Emerson Levy leads Republican businessman Michael Sipe by fewer than 300 votes in the 53rd District, now represented by Republican Jack Zika. Democrat Anessa Hartman leads Republican Adam Baker by fewer than 300 votes in the Gladstone-based 40th District, now represented by Democratic Rep. Mark Meek. And Democrat Hoa Nguyen narrowly leads Republican John Masterman in the 48th District, which lacks an incumbent after redistricting. 

Republicans led in two other open districts. Republican Cyrus Javadi has a small lead over Democrat Logan Laity in the 32nd District, which follows the Oregon coast from Astoria to south of Pacific City, and Democrat Darcy Long trails Republican Jeff Helfrich in the 52nd District along the Columbia River Gorge. 

Other races

Washington County attorney Christina Stephenson declared victory Tuesday in the race for commissioner of the state Bureau of Labor and Industries. She captured more than 60% of the votes counted so far in a race against Bend restaurateur and former legislator Cheri Helt.

Voters approved two state constitutional amendments, though two other statewide ballot measures remained too close to call. The two successful ballot measures will remove references to slavery from the state constitution and punish state legislators for political walkouts. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: [email protected]. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

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Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.