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Democrats face hurdles in Oregon despite supermajority (copy)

Here are a few initial takes on the results from Oregon's and Linn County's election night. (We reserve the right to return later to any of these topics and explore them in more depth.)

• Republican Shelly Boshart Davis won the race for House District 15, a seat that opened up when Rep. Andy Olson decided to retire. Her name recognition throughout the county gave her a significant advantage over her opponents, Democrat Jerred Taylor and Independent Cynthia Hyatt.

As Boshart Davis prepares for her first term in Salem, we would remind her that one of Olson's hallmarks as a legislator was his willingness to reach across the aisle when it was essential to getting something done. And that will likely be particularly important for Republicans in the 2019 legislative session, for the following reason:

• Legislative Republicans will be unusually lonely in Salem in 2019. Democrats finally earned the three-fifths supermajorities in each chamber required to raise taxes without any Republican votes; Democrats will have at least 18 seats in the 30-member Senate and 36 seats in the 60-member House. 

The key losses for Republicans came in West Linn's House District 37, where Rep. Julie Parrish lost to Rachel Prusak, a nurse practitioner, and in Senate District 3, in Medford and Ashland, where Jeff Golden defeated Jessica Gomez. 

With that said, the Democrats' supermajority margin is razor-thin, and at least one prominent Democrat, Senate President Peter Courtney, was warning that the Democratic celebrations of Tuesday night might be premature. 

• Projections that the gubernatorial race between Democrat Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler could be a nail-biter turned out to be — how to say this delicately? — wrong. Brown scored a decisive win, beating Buehler by more than 100,000 votes and more than 6 percentage points. 

The win wasn't exactly the "slam dunk" that Brown said it was in her victory speech. But if you're a Republican wondering what path a GOP candidate can take to win a statewide election, you might be prone to a moment of despair. The good news for Republicans is that they have four years to figure it out, because Brown can't run for governor again until 2026 — the Oregon constitution prohibits candidates from serving more than eight years in the office in any 12-year period. That means the governor's seat will be open in 2022.

That also means that Brown no longer needs to worry about re-election. She doesn't need to keep her cards so close to her chest anymore. She can run the risk of irritating her core constituents — in this case, the public employee unions who have backed her through thick and thin.

In other words, she can choose to lead. She won election this term in part by positioning herself as part of the resistance to the Trump administration; that's a politically savvy stance to take in deep-blue Oregon. But now she needs to take some of the political capital she's amassed in this election and spend it on the problems that are plaguing the state. 

• The biggest Linn County election surprise came in the remarkably close vote on the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance, the measure that would allow the county sheriff to determine if state or local gun-control measures were constitutional. 

We continue to think that this is not a particularly wise ordinance, but we also thought that it would be, to use Gov. Brown's term, a slam dunk among Linn County voters.

Instead, it turned into the evening's cliffhanger. The measure finally passed by about 1,327 votes, a margin of about 2.6 percent — much closer than we had figured. We were expecting this to pass by at least a 60 to 40 percent margin.

Similar ordinances were on the ballot in 10 counties across Oregon — and we thought they would pass in each of those counties. They did not. Voters in Jackson and Lincoln counties voted against the measures. (mm)

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