In 2016, Oregon Republicans broke their statewide losing streak. Dennis Richardson became the first Republican elected statewide since Gordon Smith won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2002.
Richardson’s win led to rampant speculation about the potential of electing a Republican governor. Oregon’s last Republican governor — Vic Atiyeh — was first elected in 1978 and was re-elected in 1982.
Decision Desk HQ, an independent election results site started in 2014, has set the proper baseline for the 2018 Oregon Gubernatorial Race:
The GOP has actually been competitive in most recent Governors races here, but Democrats always seem to win in the end. Fresh off winning the office in her own right last year, we see Brown as having a clear advantage but wouldn’t consider her completely safe. Thus, LIKELY DEMOCRATIC makes the most sense.
Here are the results from the past five gubernatorial elections in Oregon:
The median outcome of the last five gubernatorial elections in Oregon is a Democrat win of six points. The 2016 election was a special election that occurred in a Presidential year. Oregon gubernatorial elections occur in midterm elections. If we remove 2016 from the data, we see a smaller (but still sizable) 4.5 point median win for Democrats.
2014 was a good year for Republicans nationally but was a no good, very bad year for Republicans in Oregon.
2010 was a Republican wave election which allowed Republicans to split the Oregon House 30-30 and almost made Republican Chris Dudley the governor of Oregon.
2006 was a wave election for Democrats that re-elected Kulongoski and gave Democrats full control of Oregon government for the first time since 1990.
2002 was a decent year for Republicans nationally. In Oregon, Republicans made slight gains in the Oregon House that year while taking a small loss in the Oregon Senate.
There are two major factors that will influence the outcome of the election. First, Republicans must recruit a strong candidate. It would help if this person is a strong fundraiser and has some statewide name ID. Second, national political trends must not work against the GOP.
Republicans are expected to lose some number of seats in Congress based on historical trends. A Democrat wave year would make it impossible for a Republican to win the governorship here in Oregon. Republicans must nominate a competent candidate and desperately pray that Democrats don’t benefit from a wave in 2018.
Reagan Knopp is a digital political consultant and Editor-in-Chief of Oregon Catalyst.