Diary

The Electoral Map: Oregon and Washington

Today, we delve into the great Northwest and the states of Oregon and Washington.

Oregon

Oregon has a Senatorial, presidential, gubernatorial and five house races this year.  First, with respect to the House races, the current partisan breakdown is 4-1 in favor of the Democratic Party.  When we talk of Oregon and Washington, we are talking about two distinct states within each state.  In Oregon, it is the Portland area and it’s surroundings which is often referred to as Portlandia.  This is where the bulk of the population lives- west of the Cascades and along the coast.  Portland is a decidedly liberal town that has drawn the intelligent derision of their pretentiousness in the sit-com Portlandia.

Hence, it would come as no surprise that the lone Republican- Greg Walden- represents the 2nd District which lies east of the Cascades and comprises roughly 75% of Oregon’s land mass.  All incumbents are running for reelection and all should win on November 8th.  Perhaps the weakest Democratic district is the 4th which lies in the southwest corner of the state and is represented by Pete DeFazio who first won in 1986.  He will be opposed by Art Robinson who also ran against DeFazio in 2012 and 2014.  In 2012, he lost by 20 points and by 21 points in 2014.  Three will not be a charm for Robinson.  Perhaps in an open race, but certainly not this year.

In the Senatorial race, Democratic incumbent Ron Wyden, who was elected to the Senate in 1996, will face Republican Mark Callahan who won a relatively close primary race over fellow Republican Sam Carpenter.  In 2014, Callahan finished third in the GOP senatorial primary.  Regardless, this race is on no one’s radar and should be a relatively easy victory for Wyden.

The gubernatorial race is technically a special election to complete the term John Kitzhaber who resigned amid allegations of conflict of interest involving his fiance and her consultant work with the state.  Facing criminal charges, he resigned and handed the reigns of power to Kate Brown.  It is she who now is running as the Democratic candidate and is opposed by physician Bud Pierce.

Now things get a little interesting here.  Brown has not really done anything major to upset anyone in Oregon.  All Governors have some “controversy” of some sort following them and Brown is no different in that respect.  Her association with Comcast and some of her political moves have been questioned.  She currently sports a 54% approval rating in Oregon which is usually in the safe territory for reelection.

But scant polling out of Oregon show a slightly different picture.  In these polls, Brown leads Pierce by an average of only 4.5 points.  Despite the slightly higher than average approval rating, a relative unknown political neophyte is polling rather close to Brown.  Before Democrats count this one in the win column, they should remember that Kitzhaber’s victory in 2014 was not a landslide.  This may be a sleeper race to watch, but at this point one would have to give it to Brown.

As for the presidential race, let’s be realistic.  Oregon hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984.  Trump was polling relatively well here until recently, but never in the lead.  If the current trend continues, he should lose the state by 8-12 points.

Washington

The same demographic patterns that dog Oregon also afflict Washington to the north.  The bulk of the population is centered in the Seattle area, another bastion of pretentious liberalism.  Democratic incumbent Patty Murray faces Republican Chris Vance after Washington’s top-two primary system.  There is scant polling out of Washington in this race, but those few that exist indicate a double-digit victory for Murray.  However, there is a bright spot in one poll from Elway.

There is still a rather decent pool of undecided voters, those who support third party candidates and those who do not intend to vote in the presidential election.  Among these groups, Vance actually leads.  The question is whether they number enough to make a serious difference in the end.  If anything, this group shows opposition to the political establishment.  Vance, a former head of the GOP in the state, refused to endorse Trump.  Even still, in that Elway poll 83% of Trump supporters said they would vote for Vance.  Don’t expect an upset here.

In the House races, the current partisan breakdown is 6-4 in favor of the Democrats.  There is an open race in the 7th District to replace the retiring Democratic incumbent Jim McDermott.  It is safe to say that a Democrat will replace him since two Democrats- state senator Pramila Jayapal and state representative Brady Walkinshaw emerged the leaders after the top two primary.  Jayapal was a minor surprise as another McDermott (Joe) polled very close to Walkinshaw.

Most of the other district races are relatively safe for the incumbents.  Perhaps the weakest Democratic district- if you want to call it weak- is the 10th district which was created after the 2010 Census.  It lies to the south of the Seattle area, but close enough to fall within that Leftist umbrella.  And if there is a relatively weak Republican district, it is the 8th which lies in the more eastern rural areas of King and Pierce counties.  Since it’s creation in 1980, it is perhaps the only Republican bastion west of the Cascades and has never elected a Democrat.  Incumbent Dave Reichert will face Democrat Tony Ventrella, but given the outcome of the top two primary, this writer does not believe Reichert has too much to fear.

The only other House district race of possible interest is in the Third represented by GOP incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler who will face Democrat Jim Moeller.  However, like Reichert, she has little to worry about given the primary outcome where she easily exceeded 50% of the vote against 4 Democrats and an independent.

The gubernatorial race will feature Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee against Republican Bill Bryant- a relative unknown and Seattle port commissioner.  The primary results raised some eyebrows after Bryant pulled 38% of the vote to Inslee’s 49%.  Like Brown in Oregon, Inslee currently sports a 55% approval rating in Washington.  In scant polling, Inslee leads by an average of 10.3 points.

Most pundits rate this race safely Democratic and this writer would have to agree given the state’s demographics and locus of population.  This coupled with the fact that Washington has not had a GOP Governor since 1980 all adds up to a loss for Bryant.  For Bryant to succeed, he has to motivate about 100,000 mainly conservative leaning independents and stay-at-home Republicans to turn out on Election Day.  For his part, Bryant is a tepid no-Trump person and is portraying himself more as a moderate.  This writer still believes this is a potential sleeper race, but the damn Seattle area leads me to believe that Inslee will be reelected.

On the presidential front, Trump has trailed in every poll taken and trails by an average of 12.5 points.  That sounds about right given the state’s historical average since 2000 and this writer is predicting a Clinton victory by 10-12 points.

After this entry, the electoral vote count now stands at Trump 90 to Clinton’s 87.  The Senate remains 54-46 in GOP control and the House 246-189 also in GOP hands.

Tomorrow: The Land of a Thousand Lakes- Minnesota.