The so-called “red wave” that many Republicans and commentators predicted in the midterms last week largely failed to materialize on the national level, with Democrats holding onto the Senate and control of the House still up for grabs, but the story was a little different for conservative candidates in Oregon and Clackamas County.
Despite her defeat, GOP gubernatorial nominee Christine Drazan mounted the strongest bid by a Republican candidate in over a decade.
And Oregon Republicans dismayed their Democratic opponents in Oregon’s 5th, where Lori Chavez-DeRemer pulled off a narrow victory over Jamie McLeod-Skinner, despite legislative Dems redrawing the district boundaries last year to give their party a slight registration advantage.
They nearly pulled off another upset in Oregon’s newly created 6th District, though it appeared Sunday that Democrat Andrea Salinas would hold on for a slim victory over a surprisingly strong challenge from businessman Mike Erickson.
Locally, though city council positions are officially nonpartisan, Canby voters opted for a more conservative-leaning slate of candidates — retiring Fire Chief Jim Davis with 23.6% of the vote, incumbent Shawn Varwig (16.7%) and newcomer Herman Maldonado (14.8%) — sweeping out incumbents Greg Parker (14.5%) and Art Marine (13.1%).
And county voters also reinforced the Republican majority on the Clackamas Board of Commissioners, re-electing Paul Savas by a wide margin over progressive challenger Libra Forde, 56.6% to 43.2%, and, by a much narrower split, elevating Wilsonville City Councilor Ben West over incumbent Sonya Fischer.
Though West’s lead was slim, 50.4% to 49.4%, returns had trended steadily in his direction ever since the first results were posted on Election Night, when Fischer was slightly ahead.
Fischer called West to concede Sunday morning, and both candidates posted on social media acknowledging the newcomer’s victory. West promised to “work tirelessly” to advance his campaign promises.
“We are going to bring balance and accountability back to government,” he wrote. “I’m not interested in filling government coffers when people struggle to fill their cupboards. Moreover, I’ll push back against Metro when they insist Clackamas pay for Portland’s problems.
“We will work for a robust local economy and begin to solve homelessness, mental health, and drug addiction crises in a meaningful and measurable way.”
Fischer, who was running for a second term, highlighted a list of accomplishments and thanked family members and county residents for their support.
“I feel deep gratitude,” she said. “So, for everyone who put their heart and soul into seeing me continue for another four years, rest assured that the legacy that we built is unbreakable. It will continue beyond my elected service, and you are such an incredibly important part of that victory.”
The victory leaves Martha Schrader, who was re-elected to a third consecutive term in 2020, as the lone Democrat on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.
In legislative races, Republican James Hieb easily triumphed in House District 51, which includes Canby, by a more than 30-point margin, despite a widely publicized arrest for alleged drunken and disorderly conduct at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds this summer.
Hieb, who was appointed to the Legislature in February to replace Drazan, was not charged in the incident. And two-term GOP Representative Daniel Bonham secured his victory in the new Senate District 26, which covers Canby and The Dalles, defeating Democratic challenger Raz Mason by more than 15 points.
Statewide, Republicans flipped enough seats in both the House and Senate to erase the Democrats’ supermajority in both chambers, meaning they will no longer have the two-thirds majority necessary to pass new taxes or tax increases without some bipartisan support.
Democrats eked out the narrowest of victories in neighboring Senate District 20, with Mark Meek beating longtime Canby-area representative Bill Kennemer by fewer than 500 votes as of Sunday afternoon, but it cost big money, with the two candidates combining to pour a record-breaking $2 million into the race.
Kennemer reportedly raised and spent more than $1.1 million in his quixotic bid to win a Senate seat in a district that was redrawn to give Democrats a 10-point registration advantage. Meek spent over $900,000.
But, despite the highly polarized state of the electorate, a deep parsing of Clackamas County results suggests that some voters were still willing to split their ballots along party lines.
Drazan won her home county of Clackamas by a five-point margin, though it was not nearly enough to make up her deficits in deep-blue Multnomah and Washington counties.
But in the race for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, the county broke for the progressive McLeod-Skinner rather than the ultimate victor, even though Chavez-DeRemer also hails from Clackamas County.
And Clackamas County voters revolted against longtime conservative icon Sherry Hall, who had served as clerk for over 20 years and survived a number of gaffes and controversies throughout her career.
But overseeing one of the worst election debacles in state history during the May primary, which cost the county an estimated $600,000 to fix, finally soured voters on Hall, and nearly 65% of them opted for her opponent, Catherine McMullen.
McMullen said accounting for that $600,000 bill is one of the many things on her to-do list when she takes office.
“That money has to come from somewhere, along with money for other mistakes,” McMullen told Willamette Week Wednesday. “I have to look at where that money came from, and what’s not being done instead.”
She also told the publication she will resume civil marriage ceremonies at the Clackamas County Clerk’s Office — something Hall stopped doing in 2014 after Oregon legalized same-sex marriage.
All four statewide measures on the ballot passed Tuesday according to preliminary results, perhaps none of which were watched more closely than 114, which would give Oregon among the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, including limiting magazine capacity and requiring a permit from local law enforcement to purchase a firearm.
While passing statewide by a narrow margin, 50.85% to 49.15%, Clackamas County voters were almost perfectly split on Measure 114, with 91,833 in favor in the latest results, and 91,838 opposed.
With the measure’s apparent passage, opponents were already mobilizing to challenge it in court — and a good chunk of the muscle is expected to come from Clackamas County.
One of the state’s most prominent gun rights organizations is the Oregon Firearms Federation, led by Canby resident Kevin Starrett, which is joining forces with the Second Amendment Foundation to seek a temporary restraining order to stop the measure from taking effect while their attorneys make the case for its unconstitutionality, according to The Oregonian.
“The first draft of our complaint has been written,” Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation, told the paper. “We’re still adding plaintiffs to the suit, and we’ll be ready to pounce.”
The measure’s opponents also include Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser and Canby City Council President Traci Hensley, who founded a public Facebook group Thursday to mobilize the opposition. The group, Stop Measure 114, had grown to nearly 10,000 members as of Sunday.
Hensley also serves as an executive assistant for the Oregon Firearms Federation.
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