SALEM, Ore. – The window for candidates to register for Oregon’s primary elections has closed – a step toward the first general elections in the state since President Donald Trump took office and a test for Democrats hoping to solidify their control of the Legislature.
The deadline to register passed Tuesday at 5 p.m. All 60 seats in the state House are up for election, along with 16 state Senate seats, all five of Oregon’s U.S. House seats, the governorship, and other state offices.
The roster of candidates for the primary election isn’t completely finalized yet, said Debra Royal, chief of staff for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. All candidates names had been posted online, and election officials were working their way through verifying about 30 remaining candidates Wednesday afternoon, checking that they meet residency and other requirements.
Filings included opponents for some high-profile officials. A total of 16 people applied to challenge Gov. Kate Brown, including two fellow Democrats. House Republican Minority Leader Mike McLane garnered two opponents, and two registered to oppose Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney.
The primary will select the candidates who will appear on the ballot in the general election.
The state Senate is shaping up as a key battleground. Democratic legislators currently hold 17 out of 30 seats in the chamber, only one short of the three-fifths majority required to pass revenue increases. In the House Democrats have a 35 to 25 seat advantage.
While some districts in the state tilt strongly to one party, others do not, adding an element of uncertainty. In the 2016 elections, the state Senate seat in the third district, including Ashland, went to Republican Alan DeBoer by only 395 votes. The seat will be on the ballot again this year, and DeBoer has announced he won’t be running keep it.
Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Oregon Democratic Party, said she was optimistic about the race, and that the performance of the Trump administration would cast Democratic candidates in favorable light statewide. The comments mirror hopes among Democrats nationwide that voters will react negatively to the the Trump presidency, and that low approval ratings for the Republican president will translate to a boost for Democratic state and local candidates.
Kevin Hoar, a spokesman for the state Republican party, said he thought that the Tax Cuts and Jobs act – a tax overhaul advanced by the president in 2017 – would attract voters to the party. Hoar also pointed to the candidacy of Republican Jessica Gomez in the third district as a reason for optimism.
“She represents a new young energetic face (and) certainly brings a new background, as far as her life experiences,” Hoar said.
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