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Oregon Democrats hope for 'blue wave'

With Republican incumbents vacating several seats, Democrats say they have a chance to assume super majorities in the House and Senate.

CAPITAL BUREAU - Oregon Democrats are keen to take open legislative seats in the November election to claim a super majority in each chamber.SALEM — With several GOP seats up for grabs this year and low approval ratings for President Trump, Oregon Democrats hope to be the next destination for the "blue wave"  — the phenomenon of Democrats taking over state legislative seats around the nation.

The filing day for seeking election in the May 15 primary was 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 6.

"The level of enthusiasm and engagement we're seeing in the Democratic Party is unprecedented," said Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. "With Trump in the White House promoting his toxic vision for the country and Republicans doing little to stand up to him, legislative seats across the nation are flipping from red to blue in astounding numbers. Here in Oregon, our county parties are fired up, and Democrats have a strong field of candidates running in every corner of the state."

In the Oregon House of Representatives and Senate, Democrats believe they have a good chance of achieving a supermajority — enough members to pass tax measures with a three-fifths vote. Such an outcome would give the party unilateral power provided Democrats all agree on the topic at hand.

Democrats need to only hold on to the House and Senate seats they have and turn one Republican seat blue in each chamber to achieve a supermajority. They already have 35 out of 60 seats in the House and 17 out of 30 in the Senate.

Both parties will likely fight hard to claim open seats, particularly in two swing districts — House District 54 in Bend and Senate District 3 Southern Oregon.

Republicans Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend and Sen. Alan DeBoer of Ashland hold those seats now, and neither is seeking reelection. Buehler is seeking the GOP nomination for governor to face off with Gov. Kate Brown in the November general election.

"We have every reason to believe a Democrat will win in that that (Senate District 3) given the outcome the presidential election and Referendum 101," said DPO spokesperson Molly Woon, referring to the health-care funding measure that passed in a January special election.

"Buehler's district and De Boer's Senate district ... are ripe to be flipped to the (Democrats)," said Jim Moore, political science professor and director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University.

Democrats also have their eyes on other Republican seats up for reelection in the House, including five open seats and newly-appointed Republican Rep. Jeff Helfrich's position in Hood River. In addition to Buehler's, four other House seats held by Republicans will be without incumbents in November.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, 39 state legislative seats across the country have "flipped" from Republican to Democrat, according to a recent count by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The group assists in election campaigns for Democratic candidates seeking election to state legislatures.

In state elections, Gov. Kate Brown is seeking a second and final term but must first edge out Democratic challengers with little name recognition. They are Ed Jones of Redmond and Candace Neville of Eugene.

A smorgasbord of Republicans will face each other for the GOP nomination for governor. In the race are Buehler of Bend, Greg C. Woodridge of Portland, Sam Carpenter of Bend, Keenan W. Bohach of Keizer, Jonathan I. Edwards III of Portland, Jeff Smith of Fairview, David W. Stauffer of Portland, Jack W. Tacy of Lebanon, Brett Hyland of Portland.

Four members of the Independent Party of Oregon also have entered the gubernatorial race, Dan (Mr. P) Pistoresi of Lincoln City and Skye J. Allen of Portland, Shawn Liebling of Eugene and Patrick Starnes of Brownsville

In the nonpartisan race to succeed Brad Avakian as state labor commissioner, former lawmaker Val Hoyle of Eugene, Jack Howard of La Grande and Lou Ogden of Tualatin have filed for election.

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