GOP pollster and political operative Logan Dobson noted that Republicans shouldn’t sleep on elections in Oregon this year. While legacy media will undoubtedly dismiss the possibility, Oregon could indeed be one of the big electoral surprises come November.
Dobson notes that Democratic Gov. Kate Brown won reelection in 2018 by fewer than 7 points, even though it was a Democratic wave year. In previous Republican wave years, Democrat John Kitzhaber only won by 5 points (in 2014) and fewer than 2 points (2010). Republicans have a larger advantage in the generic vote now than they did in 2010.
But the national environment isn’t the only advantage Republicans have. Brown is currently the least popular governor in the country. Though she is term-limited and cannot run for reelection, her presence could loom over the race. Oregonians gave her a failing grade for crime and homelessness, which has been a major issue in the state’s largest city, Portland.
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek will be the Democratic nominee to replace Brown. Her stances on crime don’t promise to be any different. Kotek criticized police during Portland’s riots, asking why “an empty office building” would need to be protected by police officers, striking the same police-shaming tone as her predecessor.
The problems go deeper for Oregon Democrats. Progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner is poised to defeat Rep. Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. Schrader is one of the more centrist members of the Democratic House caucus, and redistricting has made the district slightly more competitive. As a result, Cook Political Report will rate the race as a toss-up, offering the GOP another pickup opportunity.
Establishment media hyped up Democratic challengers in Senate races across the country in 2020. Republican challengers didn’t get the same coverage, and yet Republicans came closer to winning in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Michigan than Democrats did in highly publicized races in Texas, Iowa, South Carolina, and Maine.
Oregon’s elections won’t get the same wall-to-wall coverage as potential Democratic pickups, such as the Senate contest in Pennsylvania. But that won’t make Oregon any less competitive.
It is an indictment of both the state Democratic Party and its national brand that Oregon is now in play for Republicans. This is the GOP’s opportunity to break through on the West Coast and provide an alternative to the crime and homelessness that come with Democratic regimes in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.