Thursday, September 08, 2016

Race of the Day- Oregon Governor

60 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

This year, Oregon will feature a special election for Governor, just two years after its last Gubernatorial contest. The winner will of course be eligible to run again in 2018. A couple recent polls have shown this race to be surprisingly close, but Oregon Republicans have been optimistic before about elections for Governor, only to come up short, as they have every time since 1982.

Democrat John Kitzhaber, a physician, served two terms as Oregon's Governor between 1995 and 2003 and was pretty popular. Eight years later, when eligible to run again, he won a third term in what turned out to be a very close general election. Running for a fourth term in 2014, Kitzhaber was considered a solid favorite, but as the campaign progressed, the politician who once had a squeaky clean image became more embroiled in scandal. Part of this involved his fiancee, who was recognized officially as the First Lady of Oregon, and the revelation that she had once been secretly married to someone, just to allow them to obtain a Green Card. Other information came to the surface regarding Cylvia Hayes and conflicts of interest involving state government, and she became a liability to the Governor, who won by a reduced margin.

As Kitzhaber began his fourth term, he went to lengths to distance himself politically from his fiancee and stated she would not play any role in state government, which was kind of an usual situation itself. All sorts of Oregonians became sour on the Governor and within weeks of beginning his new term, and after some very public wrangling with his detractors, Kitzhaber resigned the Governorship. This elevated Secretary of State Kate Brown, a recently reelected Democrat into the job as Governor. Brown, who was of course born female and is married to a man, will go down in history books as the first openly LGBT Governor in American history. She is seen as fairly liberal though and not necessarily "bipartisan."

Brown had the task of restoring faith to a state government after a scandal. Oregonians are known for expecting clean government but have had some prominent politicians fall victim to scandal or have misdeeds later publicized. The issue of healthcare and a botched rollout of the Obamacare website is also something that Brown has had to deal with as Governor.

Despite all this, she was expected to win the 2016 special election fairly easily. She easily dispatched some primary opponents in May who ran to her left, but drew a credible Republican opponent, when that primary was won by Bud Pierce. Like Kitzhaber, he is a physician and served and the bookish looking doctor served as the State Medial Association President. In the primary, Pierce was victorious with about 48 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor was a former state party Chairman who had a couple of failed statewide runs under his belt and would not have been seen as offering any real competition to Brown.

It is somewhat hard for me to know exactly what is going on these days in Oregon to make the polls look pretty close. One in late July even showed a virtual dead heat. The state is seen as pretty liberal though and Democrats typically win. Dr. Pierce may be hard to demonize and it is possible that there is a strong desire to change after all the turmoil of recent years, but my sense is that if Republicans failed to win in the strong GOP years of 2010 and 2014, it will be really hard to win this year, with a larger Presidential turnout.

Pierce campaign link:

Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup), 1 R (1 Likely)
Overall predicted thus far: 18 D, 28 R


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