In a not inconceivable scenario, the nascent major Independent Party of Oregon may end up being the key to tax and spending reform in the 2017 Legislative session.
Measure 97 is largely the result of the fact that the Oregon Constitution requires a 60% super majority in both Houses (That means 36 seats) to increase revenue, and the Democrats have been unable to convince a single Oregon House Republican to join them in a tax increase and the Republicans have been unable to convince Democrats of the need for spending reform.
Measure 97 now appears to be doomed to failure. So the Democrats are pivoting to focus on securing one additional House seat. They already have a super majority in the Oregon Senate, will likely have the Governorship, and they have 35 House seats. If they pick up a single House seat and hold the 35 they now have, they can pass any tax increase they want without reforming spending. Forget about PERS reforms.
Based on campaign spending on both sides, here are the seats that could be in play
- House District 22: Democratic incumbent Betty Komp is retiring. The race is between Republican Patty Milne and Democrat Teresa Alonso-Leon.
- House District 23: Republican Mike Nearman holds this seat. He faces former Republican Representative and now Independent Jim Thompson.
- House District 24: Republican incumbent Jim Weidner is retiring. Democrat Ken Moore is facing Republican Ron Noble.
- House District 30: Democratic incumbent Joe Gallegos is not seeking re-election. Democrat Janeen Sollman faces Republican Dan Mason.
- House District 37: Republican incumbent Julie Parrish faces Democrat Paul Southwick
- House District 51: Democratic Incumbent Shemia Fagan is not seeking reelection. Republican Lori Chavez DeRemer faces Democrat Janelle Bynum
- House District 54: Incumbent Republican Knute Buehler faces Democrat Gena Goodman Campbell.
Excepting for HD’s 23 and 24 all of these districts have a strong Democratic voter registration edge.
In 22 , 30 and 51
There is no incumbent and good candidates from each party. If history is a guide, the Democratic voter edge should decide those elections. They should stay Democratic.
Districts 37 and 54
Feature strong moderate Republican incumbents but well funded attractive newcomer Democrats. The Democrats are spending a lot of money in these districts, and perhaps their polling shows them within striking distance. Or, it could simply be a tactic to pin down two popular Republicans in their districts and make them expend their treasure. It’s very likely Parrish and Buehler win. Though it could tighten if turnout favors the Democrats.
House District 24.
A wine country largely rural district that has favored Republicans. The Democrats have stumbled in HD 24 when they decided to go negative against a well respected Republican candidate who also happened to be a former McMinville Police chief. HD 24 is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, with a lot of independents. The blow back from the negative (and false) attacks against Noble could assure Noble’s win.
That leaves House District 23
This ditrict has a 3,000+ Republican registration advantage over Democrats. But has almost 2,000 Independent voters and 25% of the voters are non affiliated. Incumbent Nearman is a very conservative Republican backed by the most conservative elements within the Republican GOP while Independent candidate Thompson is a former Republican and a moderate. Polling shows a tight race. Thompson has good name familiarity.
If the Democrats take the open seats where they have an advantage, and the Republican incumbents hold their seats, that leaves House Districts 23 and 24 – which are currently Republican, as possible targets to be the 36th Democratic vote. If 24 stays Republican, as appears likely, and Jim Thompson upends Mike Nearman in HD 23, that means Independent Jim Thompson would hold the he vote to force spending and revenue reforms. If Nearman wins, we can expect two more years of financial crisis without reforms.
Now that would be interesting.