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Oregon: Dems lose grip on state legislature


Incumbents retain four seats in the
U.S. House

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

SALEM -- Oregon's political landscape has undergone a major power shift.

Republicans erased the super majorities held by Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature. At press time, Republicans and Democrats appeared to hold an equal number of seats in both the Senate and House.

Before the election, Democrats held an 18-12 majority in the Senate and a 36-24 majority in the House.

"We're excited about having a legislative body that has some balance and has some caring and understanding of agricultural issues," Director of Government Affairs for the Oregon Farm Bureau Katie Fast said.

Also, as of press deadline Nov. 3, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley was clinging to a narrow lead over the Democratic candidate, former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Congressional races were a different matter.

Democratic incumbents retained their four seats in the U.S. House, and lone Republican incumbent Greg Walden retained his seat in the 2nd Congressional District.

Nationwide, Republicans picked up more than 50 seats to wrest control of the House from the Democrats. Walden on Nov. 3 was selected to lead his party's transition to power.

Several legislative races stood out in Oregon.

In the Senate, Republican Dave Dotterrer was in a photo-finish race with Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, in Senate District 3. Republican Alan R. Olsen was poised as of press deadline to unseat Sen. Martha Schrader, D-Canby, in District 20. And Hood River orchardist Chuck Thomsen, a Republican, won the seat vacated by Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches.

"We're ecstatic about (Thomsen) coming to the Legislature because he is a farmer and will bring on-farm knowledge to the Legislature," Fast said.

In the Oregon House, all Republican incumbents retained their seats and GOP candidates wrested control from Democrats in six districts, including:

* District 29 and 30, two seats vacated by Hillsboro Democrats.

* District 49, where incumbent Nick Kahl, D-Portland, was defeated by Republican Matthew Wand.

* District 51, where incumbent Brent Barton, D-Clackamas, was defeated by Republican Patrick Sheehan.

* District 52, where Suzanne VanOrman, D-Hood River, was defeated by Republican Mark Johnson.

* District 54, where Judy Stiegler, D-Bend, was defeated by Republican Jason Conger.

A handful of races disappointed farm lobbyists, including a narrow loss by Brooks, Ore., nursery owner Kathy LeCompte to incumbent Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn; and a loss by grass seed farmer Kelly Lovelace to incumbent Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene.

Also, the Farm Bureau was disappointed that three of the four congressional candidates it backed lost.

In the 5th Congressional District, the Farm Bureau backed Scott Brunn, who narrowly lost to Democrat incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader.

In the 1st District, the Farm Bureau backed Rob Cornilles, who lost to Democrat incumbent Rep. David Wu.

And the Farm Bureau backed Republican Art Robinson, who lost to Democrat incumbent Rep. Peter DeFazio.

The Farm Bureau did not endorse a candidate in the 3rd Congressional District, where Democrat Earl Blumenauer retained his seat.

Should the splits remain in the state House and Senate once the vote counts are finalized, legislators will have to form coalitions to organize the chambers.



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