Why Sara Gelser's run for State Senate is such a big deal.

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Over the last decade, the Oregon State Senate has been one of the most closely held legislative bodies around. After the 2010 and 2012 elections, Democrats held a bare 16-14 majority - with just a small number of seats in play.

But in 2014, we've got a shot at winning a seat we've not held since the 2001 redistricting.

As TA Barnhart reported, Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) has announced a run for the SD-8 seat currently held by Sen. Betsy Close.

Of course, Close has never been elected to the seat, having been appointed when Frank Morse resigned in September 2012. Close previously served three terms in the Oregon House, winning elections in 1998, 2000, and 2002. In 2004, she was crushed by Bill Bradbury in a race for Secretary of State.

In 2010, Morse won the seat handily over first-time candidate Dan Rayfield, by a margin of 55-45. But with Rep. Gelser taking it on, expect a much closer margin.

Barring unforeseen scandals and surprises, there's probably two other seats in play this cycle: In Clackamas County's SD-20, Senator Alan Olsen (R) eked out the closest race of 2010 over County Commissioner Martha Schrader (D) by a 50.2 to 49.7% margin. And in Jackson County's SD-3, Senator Alan Bates (D) barely won re-election over Dave Dotterer (R) by an identical 50.2 to 49.7% margin.

Already, Dotterer has announced a 2014 run against Senator Bates, who is definitely running for re-election.

In other words, there were probably two seats in play in 2014 no matter the candidate, one for each side. But with Sara Gelser in the mix, there's a second GOP seat in play. Let's go get 'em.

Update: So, I've been pondering this post since I wrote it last night. I'd add at least one more target to the list: SD-15, in western Washington County, currently held by Senator Bruce Starr. SD-15 is the combination of HD-29 and HD-30, currently held by Reps. Ben Unger and Joe Gallegos. In fact, Democrats won those two House seats in 2006, 2008, and 2012 (though not in 2010), so Sen. Starr isn't sitting pretty.


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