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48 Days to Election Day: Oregon Races

This is a fairly consistent blue state and Obama will likely win Oregon this year. Since most of the population is east of the Cascades and that area tends towards the liberal side, he should easily carry the state.

With no Senate or gubernatorial race this year, attention will be on the five House races. The current delegation is 4-1 for the Democrats. On November 7th, it will likely still be 4-1. That is not to say that there will not be some drama. The GOP candidate, who ran in primary for the special election and came in in First, will be Delinda Morgan. This district takes in northwest Oregon and the southwest portion of the city of Portland. Democrat Suzanne Bonamici currently represents the district having won the special election. Although Republicans believe that Democratic incumbent Kurt Schrader is a good target in the 5th District, a better target may actually be Pete DeFazio in the 4th.

Although running down the Pacific coast to the California border, this district is less Democratic than the 5th. His opponent will be his 2010 opponent, Art Robinson who lost by 11 points in 2010. Robinson is running as an outsider and portraying DeFazio as a career politician beholden to special interests. His fundraising has been rather strong with incumbent DeFazio only ahead by $300,000 at this point. If there is to be an upset in Oregon, it will be in the 4th District.

In that 5th District, it is, theoretically, more conservative since it sweeps into the middle of the state and takes in the suburbs of Portland. Kurt Schrader was considered a close race in 2010 before he pulled away by 5 points at the end. Also, he is sufficiently centrist to appeal to the more conservative elements in his district. And here is the problem: this is not Thompson’s first attempt and one would expect him to have greater name recognition within the district. He doesn’t. Having had a scare in 2010 and being targeted by the GOP early, Schrader has built up a war chest to ward off any challenge. Thompson, on the other hand, has raised next to nothing while Schrader’s coffers have exceeded the $1.2 million mark. In theory, this should be a close race. In reality, Schrader should win easily. If there is to be a GOP gain, I believe it will be in the 4th District.

There are some interesting questions on the Oregon ballot this year. One would phase out the estate tax in the state while another would constitutionally guarantee that local governments cannot impose taxes on real estate transfers. This latter provision is currently the law, but proponents of the measure claim that the prohibition needs constitutional protection as local governments look for more revenue in the future. As concerns taxes, perhaps the biggest question involves the “kicker” refund. If revenues exceed projections by 2% or more, the excess is generally refunded to taxpayers, including businesses. This question would remove that “kicker” to businesses (but retain it for individuals) and then dedicate that additional revenue to K-12 educational programs. This would appear to be against the interests of businesses in the state of Oregon. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, although it will likely pass since there are guarantees that individuals would continue to receive the refund.

A somewhat local issue is an initiative to ban commercial gillnet fishing of salmon in designated areas of the lower Columbia River. Supported by the strong environmentalist movement in Oregon, opponents claim that since it would apply only to Oregonians, who share the Columbia River with Washington, they would be at a disadvantage with respect to their neighbors to the north.

In an effort to raise more state revenue, some states are attempting to use somewhat innovative methods and Oregon is no different. One such effort is an initiative that would allow the personal use of marijuana that could be purchased from state stores and regulated and taxed by the state. Proponents argue that it would raise $140 million in yearly tax revenue while saving another $60 million in law enforcement costs for a net gain of $200 million to the state. Again, we have to look at the reality versus the theory. In theory, this should raise revenue while alleviating the burden on the law enforcement budget. But the fact remains that there is no way in hell that the federal government, which has blocked and harassed state medical marijuana efforts, will ever allow this law to see the light of day. Like Paul Ryan, I have nothing against the states deciding these issues, but I am also realistic and realize the federal government will never allow it. As long as an antiquated federal law, as concerns marijuana, is on the books, it is a non-starter.

Another pair of questions would allow privately-owned casinos in the state with a percentage of monthly revenue taxed. There is then a specific question for a casino in Multnomah County should the first question be approved. From a personal standpoint, I have experience in my little neck of the woods in New Jersey with casino gambling. Originally proposed as a “unique vehicle of urban renewal” amidst great promises for senior citizens, Atlantic City still contains some horrible blight and a worsening crime situation years later. In neighboring Pennsylvania, casino gambling started off like gang busters, but has since cooled off. I believe the same can be said of anywhere legalized casino gambling exists with the exception of Nevada. To the folks of Oregon: casino gambling is no fiscal panacea. It will bolster your coffers in the short term and provide some entertainment along the way, but it is certainly no substitute for fiscal responsibility in the first place.

In conclusion: I fully expect the Congressional delegation to remain 4-1 in favor of the Democrats only because I am looking at this from a worst case scenario from the GOP standpoint.

Running count thus far: Democrats ahead in the Senate 5-1 and in the House 6-2. Obama leads in electoral votes 11-3.

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