At a glance
Electoral votes: 7 | Solid Obama
D Wyden R Smith
Oregon State House:
Oregon State Senate:
Presidential election history:
The candidacy of Barack Obama – who is currently enjoying a strong lead over John McCain in polls of Oregon voters – has energized this already blue state. Obama drew more than 70,000 at a Portland rally in May; a voter-registration drive has boosted the state’s Democratic voters to 43 percent (while just 33 percent are Republicans); and Sen. Gordon Smith, one of only two Republicans in the state’s U.S. congressional delegation, is in a dead heat against Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley.
The two-term incumbent Smith, who voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq in 2002, came out against the war in 2006, distancing himself from the Bush administration. A Mormon, he is pro-life but voted for stem cell research. Merkley, the narrow victor in a bruising primary battle with Steve Novick, is speaker of the Oregon House. Considered an effective bipartisan coalition-builder, Merkley is also against the war. Along the central coast, in Oregon’s 5th district, Republican Mike Erickson and Democrat Kurt Schrader are in a tight race for the seat vacated by six-term Democratic Congresswoman Darlene Hooley. Erickson, owner of a business that negotiates shipping contracts, has pumped more than a million dollars of his own money on the campaign, outspending Schrader three to one. Other Republicans, including Smith and the lone Republican congressman, Greg Walden, have refused to endorse him – possibly because the pro-life Erickson has been accused by an ex-girlfriend of funding her abortion. Erickson’s campaign Web site has a distinctly vacant feel; the last press release was in mid-April. Schrader, a veterinarian, has served in the Oregon House for the past six years. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee committed $1.2 million (of its hefty $47.1 million war chest) into his campaign.
Oregon’s slew of mostly Republican-initiated ballot questions includes Measure 58, which would require English immersion for school children who don't speak English; Measure 61, termed by its opponents as “a draconian sentencing measure for property and low-level drug crimes” (rival Measure 57 focuses on treatment rather than prison for the same offenders); and Measure 59, which makes federal income taxes fully deductible on state returns (critics say it would benefit high wage earners and blow a huge hole in the state’s budget).