With an anticipated assist
from Oregon voters, Barack Obama has been re-elected President of the United
States. An Obama win in Ohio put the president over the top, setting the stage
for a second Obama term in office. Indeed, though the ballot counts were close,
the president won virtually all of the so-called swing states to win the
electoral college vote by a relatively wide margin.
While a presidential
election always takes center stage, the drama in Oregon came in the state
legislative races. In 2011, the Oregon House navigated through a historic but
unwieldy session with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans, resulting in
Co-Speakers, Co-Chairs of every committee and much political gridlock.
Democrats held the slimmest possible 16-14 advantage in the Oregon Senate,
meaning both chambers were up for grabs on Election Night.
With the dust settled,
Democrats will retain their same 16-14 margin in the Senate — senators
serve four-year terms, so only half of that body's 30 seats are up every
election cycle. The bigger news is that Democrats have claimed a majority in
the wild and wooly Oregon House, where each of that chamber's 60 seats is up
for election to two-year terms every election cycle. While most pundits thought
Democrats were likely to end up with 31 or 32 House seats, they will enter the
2013 legislative session with a larger-than-expected 34-26 majority.
Oregon AFSCME had an
astounding night in relation to its endorsed legislative candidates. Eight of
the nine Council 75-endorsed Senate candidates won. Alas, the one who did not
was Local 3997 (Deschutes County) member Geri Hauser, who fell to former state
representative Tim Knopp in Senate District 27.
In the House, 43 of AFSCME's
48 endorsed candidates won. Between the House and Senate the union endorsed 12
Republicans; all 12 were winners.
There were six statewide
races on the 2012 ballot, and AFSCME-endorsed candidates made a clean sweep in
those contests. Democrat Kate Brown won re-election to a second term as
Oregon's Secretary of State, downing political newcomer Knute Buehler, a Bend
physician who poured a lot of his own money into the race.
Incumbent Oregon Treasurer
Ted Wheeler, appointed to the position in 2010 following the death of Ben
Westlund, handily won election to the post over Tom Cox. Cox, who ran for
governor as a Libertarian in 2002, jumped into the race as a Republican
write-in candidate in the primary election after no one from the GOP filed for
There was a similar
situation in the race for Attorney General. Ellen Rosenblum will continue in
that office after being appointed to the post following John Kroger's
resignation earlier this year and then winning the Democratic primary in May.
Again, Republicans did not field a May primary candidate, allowing political
unknown James Buchal, a Portland attorney, to stage a write-in campaign.
Neither Cox, for Treasurer, nor Buchal, for Attorney General, ran credible
campaigns, which was evident in the election tallies.
There were also three
statewide non-partisan races. Brad Avakian retained his seat as Oregon's Labor
Commissioner, downing state Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro). Depending on the
issue, Starr has been all over the map philosophically during his tenure in the
Legislature, which began in the Oregon House in 1999. But he ran a far right
conservative campaign for BOLI Commissioner, advocating a "right to work"
platform for Oregon. Avakian, a former Oregon House member himself, retained
his job by about a 5 percent margin. Starr is in mid-term of his current Senate
seat, so he'll be back at the 2013 Legislature in that role.
Richard Baldwin (Oregon Supreme Court) and Jim Egan (Oregon Court of Appeals)
were also non-partisan statewide winners.
Council 75 took positions on
four Oregon ballot measures. The union was a primary instigator and supporter
of Measure 85, which ends the corporate "kicker" tax rebate and puts the money
toward K-12 education. Measure 85 passed easily, 60-40 percent. AFSCME opposed
Measure 79 (real estate transfer tax prohibition), Measure 81 (Columbia River
gillnetting) and Measure 84 (estate tax repeal); Measure 79 passed, while
Measures 81 and 84 failed.
Farther down the ballot,
results were not nearly as good at the local level. Local 189 (City of
Portland) did not have a good night — the travails of Portland mayoral
candidate Jefferson Smith have been well chronicled (he was soundly beaten by
former Portland City Councilor Charlie Hales), and union-endorsed state Rep.
Mary Nolan (D-Portland) lost her bid to unseat incumbent Portland City
Councilor Amanda Fritz.
for county commissioner positions lost in Clackamas (two), Columbia, Jackson,
Josephine, Polk and Tillamook counties. The two going down in Clackamas County
were both incumbents, County Chair Charlotte Lehan and Commissioner Jamie
Damon. Alan Unger did win a seat on the Deschutes County Commission, and AFSCME
split in Josephine County when Cherryl Walker edged Bob Just for one of the two
commission seats up for grabs there.
There was good news for
Local 88 (Multnomah County) and Local 2064 (Benton County). Multnomah County
voters passed a measure to create a countywide library special district, a move
that will bring greater funding stability and restore previous library cuts.
Local 88's ranks include several hundred library workers. Local 88 also
endorsed the Portland Public Schools bond levy, which passed. In Benton County,
a renewal of a public safety levy passed by a wide margin.
Several Council 75 members
celebrated the evening's results in downtown Portland at the Hilton Hotel, site
of the Democratic Party of Oregon's election night headquarters as well as the
"I'd say our hard work paid
off," said Karen Williams of Local 3336 (DEQ). "But the job isn't over. It's
imperative that we now hold the candidates we helped elect accountable on
working family issues.
"We also did this with a
much smaller percentage of member volunteers than we should have, and that's
something that concerns me going forward."
Oregon AFSCME Treasurer Jeff
Klatke was focused on the Oregon House races.
"It looks like we've won
control of the House, so that's a very good thing," said Klatke. "That makes
all of the canvassing and phone banking worth it."
Michael Stewart, the
political action chair of Council 75's largest local, Local 328 at OHSU, was
happy with the election results but was quick to say union members'
participation is necessary no matter the result.
"So far it's a good night
for AFSCME, but at a certain level that doesn't even matter," said Stewart.
"It's 'worth it' even if the voting doesn't go our way. The wealthy and big
corporations are always going to have the money to push their message. We have
blood, sweat and the soles of our shoes. We are the voice of the working class.
If not organized labor, who else has the ground game to get people turned out?"
Oregon AFSCME Political
Director Joe Baessler praised the union members and staff who volunteered hours
of time in the election.
"Once again we simply
outworked people," said Baessler. "We can't do this without the people who show
up at phone banks, the members who give up multiple weekend days to go
door-to-door and engage people in the election. We are winners tonight because
our members worked hard. Thank you."