For an election season that was fought at such a high pitch, it almost seemed as if the election itself was a little anticlimactic, with Tuesday's results providing few surprises.
All five U.S. House incumbents from Oregon were re-elected, and they all enjoyed double-digit wins. The lone Republican in the bunch, Greg Walden in the 2nd Congressional District, was supposedly facing his toughest challenger yet in Jamie McLeod Skinner, and still somehow scraped by with a 17 percent margin. Democrat Peter DeFazio barely campaigned (and for this, we are grateful) and still fended off perennial challenger Art Robinson by some 15 percentage points. In the Portland-centric 3rd District, Democrat Earl Blumenauer won re-election by a 73-20 percent margin over the Republican candidate.
Maybe some of us were surprised by the relatively easy win Gov. Kate Brown posted over Republican Knute Buehler, but in retrospect, we probably shouldn't have been, although a 6 percent victory margin in a state where registered Democrats hold nearly a 10 percent edge over Republicans probably doesn't qualify as a "slam dunk," as an ebullient Brown declared Tuesday night. In the merciless karma of politics, Brown could come to regret those words — especially if it becomes clear that the Democratic supermajorities the party finally claimed in the Legislature are exceptionally fragile.
So, Democrats won in Benton County. Republicans won in Linn County — and in the one congressional district they've dominated for years. Yawn. Even the news felines in the comic strip "Breaking Cat News" could have projected those results.
But if you look closely at the results — and, in particular, compare the results from Linn and Benton counties, some intriguing themes emerge.
Linn County's results hewed generally to the red, as you might expect: Republican County Commissioner John Lindsey easily beat Democrat Stephanie Newton, despite some damage Lindsey inflicted on his own campaign. Our guess is that the commission will comfortably stay in Republican hands for at least a few more years. Linn County voters also thumped a proposal from the commissioners to make the county surveyor an appointed position, so take that, commissioners.
But there were some surprises lower on the ballot: If you're the sort of person who likes to bet on election results, you might have thought that there was no safer bet than Linn County's Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance, the measure that gives the county sheriff the authority to determine if state or local gun laws are unconstitutional. If the sheriff makes such a determination, the county essentially would largely be blocked from enforcing those laws.
If you had bet that the measure would pass, you eventually would have been correct. But if your bet involved the margin of victory — and we had this pegged for an easy 20-point win — you likely would have lost. The measure, for whatever reason, just squeaked by, winning by less than 3 percentage points. It will be interesting to take a precinct-by-precinct look at the results for that measure.
And, while Linn County voters endorsed a measure that would have banned taxes on groceries (the measure lost statewide), they joined the rest of the state in rejecting Measure 104, which would have expanded the sorts of revenue-raising measures that required three-fifths majorities in the Legislature. (I have to confess that I was so surprised by this I initially thought we had printed the results incorrectly.) But voters on both sides of the Willamette apparently understood how the measure could have led to legislative gridlock on a variety of fronts — although you can be sure they will be watching to make sure legislators don't spend the entire session reaching into taxpayers' pockets.
In Benton County, it was a good night for Democrats and for incumbents. In the one major open seat, moderate Democrat Pat Malone held off four other challengers, including three who ran to his political left. But it's not at all certain if he would have won if there had been just one opponent running to his left. (A somewhat similar situation two years ago allowed Xan Augerot to oust Jay Dixon in the Democratic commissioner primary.) And who knows how this year's county commission race might have ended if Benton County had been able to use the ranked choice voting system that county voters approved two years ago?
If you peer a little closer at the overall Benton County results, however, you could conclude that the county is shifting a bit more to the left politically. And do the surprises from Linn County suggest slight movement toward the political center?
Those are questions for the 2020 election. And make no mistake: The 2020 campaigns are underway. (mm)