Oregon’s 2012 US House races – after redistricting

by Brendan Monaghan

The 76th Oregon Legislative Assembly completed its first session recently, and one of their biggest achievements- aside from recognizing a State Soil- was completing redistricting on both the state and congressional levels, by themselves, for the first time since Douglas McKay was Governor.  That our maps were not subject to Brownmandering- or worse, drawn in court- is a marvel that defied all expectations and Vegas odds makers.  Many of you, of course, are wondering what these new congressional districts look like, or more importantly, who your new representative is likely to be.  With that in mind, here is a preview of Oregon’s new fabulous five congressional districts.

CD-1 (Portland-Beaverton)

Changes: Oregon’s First gives up most of heavily Democratic downtown Portland, but still retains heavily Democratic Washington County and heavily Democratic Clatsop County.  In exchange, the district gains the rest of the West Hills and keeps Northwest Portland and Columbia and Yamhill Counties.  This results in a tilt toward the Republicans, but only by a negligible amount of one or two points.  It’s certainly not what Republicans were hoping for (namely, all of Multnomah County and change becoming its own district), but probably the best they could expect.

Prospects: If gambling were legal, I would bet you that twelve-year incumbent and part-time tiger David Wu loses his primary.  Several vultures are already circling overhead, including State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, State Representative Brad Witt, and maybe State Senator Suzanne Bonamici.  Last November, Republicans nominated statistically their strongest candidate since the district was redrawn in 2002 with businessman Rob Cornilles.  If he doesn’t run again, there are three members of the Legislature from Hillsboro who could give it a go- or a candidate from the Tea Party, all of whom would be underdogs.

CD-2 (Grants Pass and the East)

Changes: Very little, especially compared with what could have changed.  In a you-can’t-be-serious, designed-to-fail plan of New Coke proportions, Democrats proposed removing the incumbent congressman’s home county from its own district and tying it in with Portland and Rainier.  When Republicans complained (and Democrats joined in on cue with The Oregonian editorial staff), the map was changed back to more or less its current shape.  The Second instead keeps everything east of the Cascades, Jackson County, and a much nicer looking semicircle surrounding Grants Pass.  The district is a deep shade of red and should stay that way.

Prospects: Greg Walden is the Congressman here, and is the only member of Oregon’s congressional delegation with anything resembling a leadership position.  His Democratic opponent is likely to be the same person it’s been since he was first elected in 1998: “That Other Guy.”  If the trends and history of this district are any indication, he’d have to do something really stupid- like lie about his military record, or something– to give it up.

CD-3 (Portland-North Clackamas)

Changes: As previously stated, Oregon’s Third could have changed dramatically, if the Democrats were actually serious about their Rainier-to-Hood River design for the district.  Instead, this plan takes away large chunks of Portland from the 1st and 5th- including most of the Southwest- and gives up much of northwest Multnomah County.  The previous boundary was the Willamette River, consistent with the Democrats’ longstanding view that “Men are from East Portland, Women are from West Portland”- and thus need separate congressmen.  To the south, the Third gives up Democrat-leaning suburbs in populated Clackamas County and trades them for Republican-leaning empty space (also in Clackamas County).  Ultimately, registration numbers should balance out to little net change.

Prospects: How safe was Congressman Earl Blumenauer last year- Republican high tide throughout the rest of the country?  Blumenauer could be seen throughout the campaign mentioning Barack Obama’s name in public and praising him.  Rather than deciding to do something else with his life (City Council, Mayor, Statewide Anything), Blumenauer has apparently made up his mind to be Portland’s Congressman for Life.  He has proven to be a skilled fundraiser for his party and has never had to spend more than about $20 in district against any opponent.  The Republican nomination is Delia Lopez’s, again, if she wants it.  If not, my advice would be to run a college student, karate teacher, or woman who doesn’t speak the district’s language, doesn’t live within its borders, has to use Google Maps to figure out where it is, and spends the whole campaign in Vegas.

CD-4 (Eugene-Corvallis)

Changes: Corvallis.  In a shocking move, the Redistricting Committee took out the solidly-Democratic college town and gave it to the Fourth, which didn’t need the help.  What was on paper a swing district (D+2) becomes, on paper, more Democratic with this surprising shift.  There are also cosmetic changes to precincts around Grants Pass in far east Josephine County.  Otherwise, the district is Southern Oregon with frontiers in Lane, Linn, and now most of Benton Counties.

Prospects: Essentially unchanged.  The Fourth was never going to be very competitive as long as Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Progressive Caucus, was running.  We may never know how, with the seat now becoming more friendly to DeFazio’s chosen successor.  On Retirement Watch for several campaigns, he nonetheless racked up a double-digit win over Republican biochemist Art Robinson.  Expect a rematch, with Robinson doing most of his campaigning in the national media- last year by making Rachel Maddow’s head explode on MSNBC and this year penning an accusation of the OSU faculty.

CD-5 (Salem-Oregon City)

Changes: While not getting everything they wanted, Republicans are still salivating as to how this one turned out.  The swinging Fifth loses its Democratic veto from Southwest Portland AND the liberal stronghold of Corvallis.  In exchange, the district gains the I-205 communities of Milwaukie and Happy Valley.  This leaves the curiously-attached coastal counties of Lincoln and Tillamook, Polk, and Marion with a sliver of Benton and the populated portions of Clackamas County.  Aside from the solid Second, this is the friendliest Republican district by far.  It would not be unreasonable to expect a change in representation in a good Republican year, particularly after last year’s near-miss.

Prospects: Freshman Congressman Kurt Schrader was thought vulnerable last year, so much so that both parties actually spent money here.  Running State Representative Scott Bruun, Republicans had high hopes of flipping the seat for the first time since the 1994 Republican Revolution.  Thanks in large part to Portland (and Corvallis), that didn’t happen.  With those cities no longer a threat, look for Republicans to try again with their A-Team yet again on the field.  The district runs though a lot of red territory, and the GOP has a deep and talented bench in this area, filled with existing elected officials.  Bruun probably has the right of first refusal, but Representative Bill Kennemer, State Senator Brian Boquist, or a pair of star candidates from Lake Oswego (who ran against each other for Governor) could run too.  A good year and a friendly district could be a perfect Republican storm.

Brendan is a graduate student at Portland State University, where he hosts the KPSU “Right Jab” radio program. Brendan is studying political science, and graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007, with a degree in political science.


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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in 2012 Election, Redistricting | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    The candidate opposing Blumehauer should be the antithesis of everything Portland city hall.  There’s next to nothing to lose in letting it all hang out.  It would be just fun to have an outlandish candidate in this District.  We conservatives in this District need some comic relief.

  • Anonymous

    Dumb A$$ Republicans….No mention of Fred Thompson who ran against Bruun against the rich little blueblood Kirt Schraeder. I have had it with the Republican Party. Fred should not even bother running for the Republican nomination in the Primary. He should run as an independent and save his money for the General Election.

    • Stephfredlaw

      RRStubbs… thanks for the kind words. When we look at the 5th CD over the last 10 congressional races the Republicans have won one…. one out of ten is not a winning record or selecting the right canidate for the challenge. They are all trained by the same group who runs races not to win but run races not to lose. Bruun had a ten point lead two weeks before the general election and lost by 5 points … a fifteen point swing. The problem with the R party is thar they believe their own press reports. Face it… for 20 years they have a blind spot in their collective thinking. They just don’t see what is happening in the 5th… the voters always get it right. they vote for the devil they know not the devil they don’t know. My opinion. Fred Thompson

    • CC

      I had no idea that veterinarians who care about military veterans are “rich little bluebloods”.  Even odder as that would be a more apt description in general of people in the other major political party during all of my five decades.  While it seems no one is willing to provide an easily accessible MAP of the new district lines, at least this gave me some idea of what has happened.  Too ba.

  • Anonymous

    Just think Fred, these same guys and gals are pushing Romney knowing he would not win a race with Obama. Like you said there is the devil we know and the devil we don’t know. The RINO Republicans are already pushing the UNITY crap. I just hope there are enough conservatives to pull this one through the mud.

    • Fred Thompson

      RRStubbs, It’s sad to think that after twenty years they still think that they can come up with the correct winning 5th CD candidate formula. They don’t understand that clear and concise talk will win the voters over. Think Marco Rubio, Allen West, Chris Christie and Rand Paul … Oregon does not have one of these types in their elected stable. It will take an common man to win the 5th… not a common rich guy like Mike Erickson. His 3 million did not win the race. It can’t be purchased… it must be earned and work for. Most of the elected are too blind/lazy to work for it. They have the Gordon Smith (GS) management team telling them what to say and do. Being handled by this group is a sure way to lose the race… Just ask Bruun how it worked for him. He had the chance and the DC/GS team blew the race for him. Now they think the district line has moved and this will make the playing field even. Not a chance this happening. The folks see through the seminar trained candidates. It won’t work and the Ronald Reagan 11th comandment will not work either. The voters want a candidate with stones. It’s do or die time. My Opinion. Fred Thompson

  • Gullyborg

    best bet for CD1 is to lay off Wu completely until the day after the primary.  if he runs, his incumbency power can give him an easy win IF he faces no strong attacks from us.  then, we need a strong GOP nominee with broad appeal.  we can beat him if we are strategic about it.

  • Gullyborg

    shocked that CD 5 lost liberal blocs to other districts that didn’t need them.  my guess is DeFazio will finally retire and they are desperate to hold CD 4 against a possible strong challenger like new County Commissioner and former Mayor of the Year Sid Leiken.  if Robinson is the nominee again he will go down in flames again, even against a fresh face.

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