Besides the congressional seats in play this year, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley’s seat is up for reelection as well as that of Governor Kitzhaber whose job approval ratings are not that great. When reading this entry, it is important to keep in mind that this is Oregon, not exactly (at least electorally speaking) a bastion of conservatism. The bulk of the population of the state is centered along the coast and around Portland and it is this area which is the most liberal and likely to vote Democratic. Therefore, endorsements in some cases may not be the most conservative candidate- except where there is little downside to doing so. But if a less conservative, yet more electable candidate emerges (that is, a Republican who can gain some appeal in “Portlandia”) then that is where the endorsement will lie UNLESS they are so radically non-conservative that there is no difference between them and a Democrat in the practical sense.
For governor, there are six candidates. Tim Carr sounds way too libertarian for my liking while I could find little on Bruce Cuff. Darren Karr is just weird enough to appeal to some weird Democrats but the weirdness factor disqualifies him. Gordon Challstrom sort of had me until I read some of his harping on cell phone use by students in school as part of an educational reform package. Although student use of cell phones at school may be part of a larger problem (like discipline), one has to believe there are larger issues as concerns education. Likewise, Mae Rafferty had me until she proposed a ban on genetically modified seeds in her agriculture package. That leaves state representative Dennis Richardson as the most likely to present the greatest challenge to Kitzhaber. Besides his political experience and better name recognition, most political watchers in Oregon also place as the prohibitive favorite to get the GOP nod. And lest we forget, the failures of the Oregon health exchange should figure prominently in this race and Kitzhaber presided over that exchange.
In the Senate race, the low-key Jeff Merkley was not considered a target of the GOP until quite recently. Most consider this a two-way race between state representative Jason Conger and surgeon Monica Wehby. Mark Callahan is probably the most conservative candidate in the race and perhaps the least electable. The idea is to at least place this seat in play in November, something the Democratic Party neither desires nor has planned for. That is why they, according to some sources, are hoping for a Conger victory over Wehby. The problem for Wehby- perhaps the more electable of the two- ais that some socially conservative groups in the state who disagree with her views on same-sex marriage and (possibly) abortion. My initial reaction was to support Wehby and put the seat in play. But, we have to think realistically here and the fact is that it would be difficult under the best of circumstances to unseat Merkley. Thus, we need to think of this more as one of those “really nothing to lose” endorsements. Therefore, this writer supports Jason Conger in the Republican primary.
The First District is held by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici in a district rated +7 Democratic by Cook, although I have it slightly higher. The GOP field is three deep with 2012 candidate Delinda Morgan running again, Bob Niemeyer, and Jason Yates. Located in the northwest corner of the state and extending to the Portland suburbs, a Republican has not represented this district since 1975. In 2012, Morgan garnered only 33% of the vote. In all probability, unless something drastically changes, there should not be too much hope for the GOP here. Therefore, although Morgan has the name recognition and political experience, I give the nod to newcomer Jason Yates primarily because he enters the race with a specific plan and list of priorities.
The 2nd District encompasses the bulk of Oregon landwise and is rated +10 Republican by Cook (I rate it higher than that). It is considered fairly safe GOP territory. Incumbent Republican Greg Walden will face Tea Party challenger (well, what is left of the Oregon Tea Party) Dennis Linthicum. For his part, his biggest criticism against Walden is Walden’s 16 years in Congress. Changing congressmen here probably holds the least risk, but why leave it to chance, especially against a somewhat moderate Democratic candidate? Govtrack places Walden as a rank-and-file Republican- not too liberal/not too conservative. All things considered, this writer sees no reason to make any changes here just for the sake of change. It makes better sense to go with a proven entity. Therefore, I would endorse Greg Walden.
The final GOP primary will be in the 5th District where Democrat Kurt Schrader will face either Ben Pollock or Tootie Smith. This district is rated even by Cook and I have it Democratic but clearly not in solid territory. There is some political intrigue here regarding the source of funds for Pollock’s campaign from a GOP faction is a neighboring district. Smith has overcome intraparty opposition in primary campaigns for other offices previously so this should not come as a huge surprise to her. Pollock has political experience from behind the scenes and this is his first run for elected office. The bottom line is that Schrader is the most vulnerable Democrat in Oregon’s congressional delegation and has never broken the 55% mark on Election Day. This is a changing district that stretches south from Portland and westward to the coast. Given Schrader’s track record, if the GOP wants to throw another scare into Schrader and hope for a Republican wave, then perhaps Smith is the candidate. It is doubtful he would break 55% against her if he wins. But if you want to make this a nail biter for Schrader on election night and actually take the district, then Ben Pollock may be the better choice.
To summarize: Dennis Richardson for Governor, Jason Conger for Senate,, Jason Yates in the First District, Greg Walden in the Third and Ben Pollock in the Fifth.