The Oregon House: A historical view

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

The Democrats lost control of the Oregon House in 1990. It's been sixteen long years of GOP control - and tonight, it just might come to an end.

"Speaker Jeff" just sounds so good, doesn't it?

But, I'd like to inject a note of caution. There's a funny little pattern that's been happening for the last 22 years in Oregon - over the last 11 elections.

That is, Oregon House Democrats never gain seats in midterm elections. Democrats only gain seats in presidential years - when voter turnout skyrockets. (That's why we've been hammering away on the GOTV efforts all week, eh?)

The last time we broke that trend was in 1982, when the Reagan Revolution looked a lot like a Reagan Recession.

In 1986, Oregon House Democrats lost three seats. In 1990, Oregon House Democrats lost four seats - and the majority. In 1994, Oregon House Democrats lost one seat (not bad in a disastrous year). In 1998, Oregon House Democrats lost four seats (despite a great year nationally.) And in 2002, Oregon House Democrats lost two seats.

Frankly, if it weren't for the presidential years, our legislature would look a lot like Utah's. We lost seats in the Reagan landslide of 1984, but then picked up a seat in 1988, stayed put in 1992, and picked up two each in 1996, 2000, and 2004.

Can the House Democrats take control tomorrow? Maybe. If they just pick up one seat, they'll be bucking a trend that's lasted for two decades. If they pick up two, it'll be a big night. If they pick up three, and we wind up 30-30, that's huge. And if they pick up four seats and win the majority... well, that'll be historic.

In my research, I went back 30 years - and the House Democrats have never picked up four seats (though we've lost four seats three separate times.)

So, work hard. Don't stop dialing, driving, or walking until 8 p.m. Remind everyone you know to turn in their ballot. And then, keep your fingers crossed. And be ready to celebrate - even if it's a pick up of only two seats.

Because once we've broken the trend, we'll have to bring the trend back in 2008 and pick up even more seats.

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    Oh, and full disclosure: I built the websites for the Oregon House Democrats and a bunch of the candidates, too - but I speak only for myself.

  • Ali (unverified)

    Go team GO.

  • John Napolitano (unverified)

    Historically, we lose seats because we can't get democratic voters to turn out in high numbers in midterm elections, and because we focus all our attention and money on a handful of targeted races, missing a lot of opportunities around the state. Not so this year. Going into the last day, we have an edge in voter turnout vs. the republicans, and we have many races where we have quality candidates that are ahead or that have a good shot, even in areas with a republican registration edge. The trend for the last 11 midterm elections is one of our own making, and it is up to us to reverse it. Now go find a phone bank and call to GOTV.

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    But of course, we have to get a !@&#^%!@(#$&!%#) @$(@&!#%)$!%($%!#($&%!@$&* RAIN on election day.

    Admittedly, with vote by mail, this isn't quite as bad as it is in other states - but I anticipate a large number of Democrats and Independents again, deciding, 'oh what the hell - I'll skip voting like I usually do'.

  • anon (unverified)

    Actually, if you count Jan Lee (who ran as a D), we lost three seats in 2002.

    1. We picked up a redistricted seat in Washington County, where Jeff Barker replaced Bill Witt (Witt was assigned to the new HD 28, even though he lived farther north).

    2. We lost HD 14 (Walker moved up to the Senate) to Pat Farr(R).

    3. We lost HD 37 (Devlin moved up to the Senate) to Randy Miller(R).

    4. We lost HD 39 (Schrader moved up to the Senate) to Wayne Scott(R).

    5. We lost HD 51 (Lee) to Linda Flores(R).

    Not fun in the Clack.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I have one concern about the GOTV effort, and maybe it's not a problem. I've been phonebanking at DPO and Cube Space and I'm only calling Portland area Democrats. Many have beend called a dozen times already and are getting a bit testy. What about the rest of the state? Does the party have well-staffed phone banks in Yamhill, Clackamas and Lincoln counties, where there are competitive races (Pralta, Caudle, Cowan)?

    At Cube Space, you can't make a long distance call, but in 2004, I spent the entire election day at 9th and Davis calling Florida and then Ohio, since virtually everyone in Oregon had already voted by mail.

    I'm pretty much just a grunt in this army, but I think it would be better to make sure every Democrat who hasn't voted gets called at least once than to call the metro area's voters several times. Maybe someone here can answer this question.

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    [off-topic comment deleted. -editor.]

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    Hey, Kari.

    Last night the Raiders set a new record for most sacks allowed in the first half.

    Trends only hold until they are superseded.


    I can tell you that in NW Clackamas County and Hood River County we've been calling and walking weekly since before the primary in our second tier effort for Suzanne VanOrman.

    Our grassroots efforts were strong enough that the DPO called Suzanne's campaign manager and told him that they would be assisting us with calls in the final push.....

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    Hey Steve,

    Down here in Jackson County we are dropping off ballots in partly sunny weather and, so far, not one rain drop.

    Hey Gil,

    The phone banks at Jackson County Democratic Head Quarters have run 2 shifts per night and 4 shifts on the weekends. Ashland is experiencing extra heavy ballot drop off activity yesterday and today. Toward the end of Sunday we noticed some Dems had received several phone calls reminding them to vote. Sheesh, when are voters going to wake up and figure out the earlier they vote the fewer phone calls they will recieve,..if any! Once the election's clerk reports the voters ballot has been received, the voter is removed from the calling list.

    Go Ted! Go Rob!

  • dave (unverified)

    Phone banks, grassroots, websites.

    "Historically, we lose seats because we can't get democratic voters to turn out in high numbers in midterm elections, and because we focus all our attention and money on a handful of targeted races,"

    Dont you think issues might be involved here anywhere? PERS, taxes, constant "sky falling" revenue forecasts, unfunded pensions, etc, etc, etc. Why would a dem want any of that?

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    Yes, the troll defense fund is still in effect.

    Thanks, Dave!

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    Anon... you're right about Jan Lee. I had her down as an independent in the 2001 session - which, in the way I was counting, Democrats lost two seats, but the Republicans picked up three.

    I was working from a list of legislators, not historical election results. (Which seems to be all that one can find at the state archives website at 1 a.m.)

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