Oregon stays blue as Democrats enjoy big night
By STEVEN DUBOIS
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Democrats appeared to retain their grip on Oregon statewide offices and were primed to retake control of the state House in Tuesday's election.
Voters also gave President Barack Obama his second consecutive easy win in the state and returned all five incumbent congressman -- four Democrats and Republican Greg Walden -- to Washington.
Republican hopes to snap a two-decade losing streak for Oregon statewide offices rested with Knute Buehler, who issued a strong challenge against Democratic incumbent Kate Brown in the race for secretary of state.
Although voters might have a tough time reciting the duties of the secretary of state -- registering corporations, applying election laws and auditing government agencies -- it's the second-highest elected office in Oregon. The secretary is the first in line to be governor if the chief executive dies or resigns.
Republicans held the post for more than 100 years before losing it in the 1984 election. Democrats have had the job ever since, but Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon from Bend, raised well over $1 million in his bid to deny Brown a second term.
But returns showed that the Democrats' strong edge in voter registration appeared to be too much to overcome. With roughly half the ballots counted, Brown led by about 90,000 votes.
In other races, incumbent Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum defeated Republican challengers. And Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, a Democrat, appeared to fend off Republican Bruce Starr in a contest that is technically nonpartisan.
Though voters were in a Democratic mood, they weren't entirely in a liberal one as early returns showed them defeating a ballot measure to legalize marijuana.
Results of exit polling showed Oregon women were more opposed to legalization than men and seven in 10 senior citizens voted against it. Measure 80 found support in the Portland area but couldn't gain traction elsewhere.
Other ballot measures went up in smoke before Election Day.
Two Canadian companies spent millions promoting a pair of measures that would allow a casino east of Portland before suspending their campaign when polls showed the effort was a longshot. Earlier, a recreational fishing group stopped promoting a measure that would ban nontribal fishing with gillnets on the Columbia River.
The measures, however, remained on the ballot and both failed by wide margins.
In another measure, voters decided to eliminate the "corporate kicker," a tax break unique to Oregon. When corporate income tax collections at the end of a two-year budget cycle exceed projections by at least 2 percent, the surplus is returned to corporations. When all other forms of tax revenue exceed their projections, the excess is kicked back to individual taxpayers.
Critics of the kicker complain that it prevents the state from using excess money collected during boom times to help during economic busts.
The measure does not affect the kicker that's returned to individual taxpayers.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.