Where Oregon Senate races stand ahead of the primary

Half the seats in the Oregon Senate are up for election this year, and voters will send at least six new senators to Salem because of retirements and a law that barred most Republicans from running for reelection after they participated in a six-week walkout. 

Control of the 30-member Senate isn’t on the line this election: Senators serve four-year terms with staggered elections, and most competitive races take place in midterm years. Democrats hope to add one or two new senators to their 17-member caucus, while Republicans hope they can pick off at least one Democrat. Four Republicans and 11 Democrats represent districts that aren’t up for election until 2026. 

The 2024 election is just a formality for Sens. Fred Girod, R-Silverton, and Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland, as well as Rep. Khanh Pham, D-Portland. They have no opponents in their races. 

Most Senate districts up for election this year are strongly Democratic or Republican and aren’t likely to change hands. However, Democrats have their eyes on the coastal 5th District and the Bend-based 27th District, while Republicans are optimistic about flipping the 25th District in east Multnomah County.

“We’re feeling really optimistic about this cycle,” said Oliver Muggli, executive director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund. “We have great candidates filed who represent their communities extraordinarily well, are ready to put in the work necessary to win and we know that Oregonians fundamentally share certain progressive values about what they want their state to look like.” 

None of the targeted races have primaries. Sen. Dick Anderson, R-Lincoln City, will face Democratic Florence City Councilor Jo Beaudreau in the 5th District, and Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutsdale, will square off with Republican insurance agent and Army Reserves Col. Raymond Love of Gresham in the 25th District. 

The 27th District is open because Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was barred from running for reelection after leading the 2023 walkout. Bend City Councilor Anthony Broadman, a Democrat, will face Redmond School Board Chair Michael Summers, a Republican, in November in that race. 

“We’re going to fight like hell to keep Knopp’s seat,” said Bryan Iverson, executive director of the Senate Republicans’ Leadership Fund. “We still think that seat is a viable option for us, just like we think Gorsek’s seat is a viable option for us.” 

Republicans face primary fights

No Democratic candidates have primary races, but several Republicans in safe districts do. 

  • Sen. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, faces a four-way primary fight in the 1st Senate District, which includes Curry and parts of Coos and Douglas counties. Brock Smith served six years in the House before he was appointed to the Senate in 2023 to finish the term of former Sen. Dallas Heard. His opponents are former Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks, frequent candidate Paul Romero and logger Todd Vaughn.
  • The neighboring 2nd District, which includes Josephine and parts of Douglas and Jackson counties, will feature a primary between Rep. Christine Goodwin, R-Canyonville, and Noah Robinson, son of disqualified Sen. Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction. A group of Josephine county voters sued late last week to keep Goodwin off the ballot, claiming she doesn’t live in the district. Goodwin denied those allegations, and a hearing wasn't scheduled in time to affect the primary.
  • The 28th district based in Klamath County is a fight between Diane Linthicum, wife of current Sen. Dennis Linthicum, and Klamath County Commissioner Dave Henslee. Dennis Linthicum is disqualified because of his participation in the 2023 walkout and is now running for secretary of state. 
  • Sen. Bill Hansell’s retirement announcement early last year launched a crowded primary field in the 29th Senate District, which covers most of northeast Oregon. Former Morrow County Commissioner Jim Doherty, Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann, Eastern Oregon University student Andy Huwe and Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash are running in the Republican primary.
  • Mike McLane, a former House Republican leader and circuit court judge, is seeking a return to the Capitol in the 30th Senate District, which spans most of eastern Oregon. He’ll face Crook County rancher Douglas T. Muck Jr. and Baker County resident Robert Neuman, who briefly considered a run for attorney general, in the primary.

General election races

Former Republican lawmaker Bruce Starr, who served four years in the House and 12 in the Senate, is eying a comeback in the 12th Senate District now represented by Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, who is disqualified for reelection because of the walkout. Starr will face Scott Hooper, a Democratic farmer from Monmouth, in November.  

Most Democratic incumbents face token opposition from Republicans in safely Democratic districts. 

  • Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton, will face Republican airport ramp servicer Shane Bolton in the 14th Senate District in Washington County. 
  • Sen. Wlnsvey Campos, D-Aloha, has a general election challenge in the 18th Senate District from Brian Pierson, who garnered 30% of the vote as an Independent Party of Oregon candidate in 2018. 
  • Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, will face Army and Marine veteran Michael Saperstein in the general election in the 22nd District.

The primary election is May 21, and only registered Republicans or Democrats can vote in party primaries. Voters must register by April 30 to receive a ballot. April 8 is the first day that county clerks can provide ballots to Oregon voters who will be out of state during the primary.

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 is deputy editor of Oregon Capital Chronicle and 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.