Midterm Races in Oregon and Hawaii

I included these races later rather than sooner in this series for different reasons.  In Oregon, there is a gubernatorial, congressional and Senate race this year.  First, the Governor’s race where incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber will face Republican state representative Dennis Richardson.  Historically, Oregon was Republican-leaning although more on the progressive side than conservative side.  Once the Democratic Party absorbed the progressives, the state has swung left.  However, it is not that far left that Republicans are rejected outright.  Most of the state’s population is in the Portland area between the Cascades and the coast.  This is quite liberal territory and outcomes here dictate the races.  Once out of this area, the counties grow increasingly less Democratic-leaning.

In 2010, Kitzhaber surged at the end of the campaign to capture victory.  In the polls conducted in this race this year, only four have placed Richardson inside a 10 point disadvantage with one showing a tie, but that was in April.  Nothing against Dennis Richardson, but unless this is as historic a year as 2010, his chances of winning are not great even though Kitzhaber may not be the most popular Governor in the country.  Prediction: Kitzhaber by 9-11 points.

In the Oregon congressional delegation, [mc_name name=’Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’W000791′ ] is the only Republican of five representatives.  The only races that one could consider interesting would be the 4th and the 5th.  Art Robinson is back for his third attempt to unseat DeFazio, a somewhat liberal representative.  He lost by 10 points in 2010 and 20 points in 2012.  Robinson is more in the mold of a libertarian Republican which may be appealing to some in this district.  However, it is likely not enough and DeFazio should win.

In the 5th, Democrat [mc_name name=’Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001180′ ] is more vulnerable to defeat that DeFazio.  In terms of party strength, the Democrats have a slight advantage.  Schrader’s electoral history has not been victories by very large margins.  Still, he wins despite being targeted by the GOP.  The problem for Republican Tootie Smith is Schrader’s voting record.  He sticks with the Democrats on the big issues like stimulus spending and Obamacare, but distances himself on issues of more local interest.  For example, he was one of 14 Democrats to vote against a bill that would have strengthened the Endangered Species Act and one of 35 Democrats to vote for a bill that would have reigned in the EPA’s regulation of water- an act that angers Oregon voters.  The only thing that may catapult Smith into office is a general anger against incumbents.  Considering that Schrader has survived before leads me to believe he will win again. 

I included this race later because I believed that Monica Wehby, the Republican candidate for Senate against incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M001176′ ] would be a lot closer at this point.  Unfortunately what started off as promising is proving to be more vexing in reality.  Wehby has received an infusion of help from the Koch brothers and people like [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ], but Americans For Prosperity have backed off of late sensing defeat.  Then there are the alleged plagiarism allegations regarding policy positions (especially on health care) which she claims as her own.

The problem is that Wehby’s campaign has been bumpy at best.  What started out as promising and drawing Democratic money into a race that should easily be their’s is turning out to be not a debacle for the GOP, but certainly disappointing.  Prediction: Merkley by 9-13 points.

Oregon always seems to have interesting ballot questions and this year is no different.  The first most controversial one would allow undocumented aliens to obtain driver’s licenses- BAD MOVE!  The second would provide equal rights regardless of sex- sounds great, but the devil is in the details.  A third question would create an open primary system like that of both California and Washington- whatever… A 4th question is whether recreational use of marijuana should be allowed- look to Colorado.  And finally, their is the obligatory mandatory labeling of genetically-modified foodstuffs- much ado about nothing unless young Oregonians are growing two heads.

Conversely, the race in Hawaii is included later rather than sooner in this series because the GOP has performed better than expected here.  A lot of this starts with the death of iconic Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye who allegedly wanted [mc_name name=’Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’H001050′ ] to be his designated replacement.  Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie instead appointed [mc_name name=’Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S001194′ ].  In the Democratic primary this year, the voters took out their disappointment/disagreement/anger not on Schatz, but on Abercrombie and ditched him for David Ige.  As expected, the GOP candidate is Duke Aiona.  Given Hawaii’s decided Democratic slant, Aiona should not be that close in an average of polls, but he is.

The problem for Aiona is not the man himself, or his policy positions.  The problem is Hawaii and its Democratic tendencies.  While it may be true that they recently had a Republican Governor in Linda Lingle and she left office highly popular, it is also true that she was thoroughly trounced in her bid for the US Senate.  Although I do not predict a trouncing of Aiona, one has to believe that Hawaii will elect a Democrat yet again.  Underscoring this fact is that overall Aiona may be close in the polls, he is trending the wrong way.  Prediction: David Ige by 7-10 points. 

In that Senate race, Schatz defeated Hanabusa in a close, delayed primary.  On the Republican side will be relative unknown Cam Cavasso.  Despite the apparent lack of endorsement from some big Democratic names in Hawaii, it would appear that Cavasso is just too over-matched and will lose.  Prediction: Schatz by at least 25 points.

Because Hanabusa opted for a Senate run, it opened her district.  Here, former Republican representative Charles Djou will face Democrat Mark Takai.  Djou was appointed to this seat previously and was voted out despite his relative popularity in the district.  This is a fairly reliable Democratic district and this race should be close.  However, like most races in Hawaii, Djou has to overcome that penchant for the electorate to vote Democratic.  Although a close race, Mark Takai will likely win by about 4 points.

There is one ballot question of interest- whether public funds should be allowed to be used for private pre-K education.  This is a no-brainer and should be approved.

Although there was/is promise in these states, there will likely be no partisan changes.

Next:  Moving back east- Pennsylvania and New Jersey