Election Coverage / Government Watch / Politics

In Oregon, a Revolt Against Portland’s Domination of State Politics

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

Christine Drazan (R), the former GOP minority leader in the state House. – Photo Credits: Christinefororegon.com

The last time Oregon elected a Republican governor, Ronald Reagan was still in his first term as President. Dominated by Portland’s Multnomah County, Oregon today seems a solid part of the “Left Coast.” Yet a revolt seems to be stirring among Oregon’s voters – if Republicans can take advantage of it and set the stage for a return to power in Salem after 40 years in the wilderness.

Democrats have won every gubernatorial election in Oregon since 1982, and as of 2020 they hold every statewide office. They control large majorities in both houses of the state legislature, holding 18 of 30 seats in the Senate and a 37-23 majority in the House.

Incumbent Democrat Governor Kate Brown consistently rates as the least popular chief executive in the country, and due to term limits is unable to seek re-election this fall. In her place, Democrats have chosen Tina Kotek, a self-avowed progressive and former speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. Republicans, meanwhile, have nominated Christine Drazan, the former GOP minority leader in the state House. Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic member of the state Senate, formally left the party this spring and is running as an Independent in a strong third-party bid – polls currently have her just behind Drazen and Kotek, who are neck-and-neck in most surveys.

That few non-Oregon residents can name the state’s capital, Salem, instead defaulting to its largest city, Portland, both illustrates why Republicans have struggled to win in Oregon for decades and why Democratic hegemony may now be under threat. There are few states as dominated by a single city as Oregon has been politically. Boston has rarely wielded statewide power in Massachusetts, voting Republican when the Federalists dominated state politics and Democratic when Whigs and Republicans ruled. Even under Democratic hegemony, it is suburban politicians who rule. New York City has had to contend with the rest of the state, losing more often than not. San Francisco’s Bay Area is balanced by Los Angeles, and both by their suburbs. Minneapolis and St Paul, and Milwaukee and Madison, cannot produce majorities on their own for Democrats in Minnesota and Wisconsin, nor can Atlanta in Georgia.

Portland, however, can and does deliver statewide elections, especially at the Presidential level. While there are centers of Democratic strength around Eugene, college towns and the state capital, the rest of the state is largely red, and the decisive influence of Portland is obvious.

 Multnomah MarginMultnomah Raw VotesWashington County MarginWashington Raw VotersTotal D Portland Margin in VotesStatewide Margin in votesStatewide Margin Outside Multnomah and Washington
200063.52%-28.2% GoreD+104,76448.75%-46.29% GoreD+4,571D+109,335D+6,765R+102,570
200471.57%-27.14% KerryD+161,14652.37%-46.36% KerryD+13,917D+175,063D+76,335R+98,728
200876.69%-20.61% ObamaD+204,52559.82% -37.69% ObamaD+52,359D+256,884D+298,816D+41,932
201275.37% -20.65% ObamaD+199,58557.08%-39.65% ObamaD+41,317D+240,902D+216,313R+24,589
201673.30%-17.03% ClintonD+224,60756.92%-30.90% ClintonD+70,054D+294,661D+219,703R+74,958
202079.21% -17.91% BidenD+284,25465.54% – 30.93% BidenD+110,967D+395,221D+381,935R+13,286

The growth of Portland can be witnessed in two ways. First, the growth in the raw number of votes being cast both in the core parts of the city in Multnomah County, and secondly, the growth of Portland into previously competitive Washington County. Bush managed 47% of the vote in Washington County in both 2000 and 2004. By 2020, Donald Trump won less than 31%. At the same time, the raw margin by which Democrats won the two counties increased by nearly 400%, going from less than 110,000 in 2000 to almost 400,000 in 2020. Oregon’s shift from a toss-up state in the 2000 election, to a safely Democratic state in 2016 and 2020 is almost entirely a result of the growth of Portland.

This is not to say that the rest of the state has been static. The margins by which Bush won the rest of Oregon, around 100,000 votes in both 2000 and 2004 are not dramatically off the 75,000 by which Donald Trump won it in 2016. But whereas a 100,000-vote victory in the rest of Oregon got Bush within 7,000 votes of carrying the state in 2000 (albeit with a strong third party performance), in 2016 a 75,000 vote margin in the rest of Oregon still saw Donald Trump losing by 220,000 votes.

Portland’s growth has not only affected the outcome of statewide elections. It has also seen a shift in the balance of power within the Democratic Party. In states dominated by a major city, at least ones where Democrats are successful, the party tends to try and maintain a balance between the urban voters who provide their most reliable electorate, and the Democratic voters elsewhere who provide the margin of victory statewide. This is usually done by giving those regions a preponderance of influence in the choice of candidates and legislative leaders. Hence for years, Democrats favored politicians from the mill towns of central Maine or with ties to the timber unions of northern Maine over those from cosmopolitan southern Maine for legislative leadership roles. In New York, AOC might headline galas, but the legislative leadership tended to be dominated by Upstate pols. In Virginia, this meant picking candidates from Hampton Roads and Richmond rather than Northern Virginia, while in Maryland it meant ignoring Baltimore and in Michigan, Detroit. When this balance has collapsed, as it increasingly has in Maine, or as it did in Virginia in 2021 when Democrats selected all Northern Virginians for the statewide ticket, the result has been defeat. One of the major reasons Democrats have struggled to lock-in their gains in Atlanta in Georgia has been the perception that their candidates, especially Stacey Abrams, only represent Atlanta, and not all of Georgia.

In the case of Oregon, this balance has been undermined by the insistence of Portland-based politicians to demand a share in Democratic politics commensurate with their influence. Kate Brown, the present governor, was a Portland legislator. The first openly bisexual woman to serve as a governor, she succeeded by accident. The incumbent John Kitzhaber was forced to resign, and Brown as Secretary of State succeeded, as the state lacks a Lt. Governor. Her relative weakness was made clear in 2018. Despite a Democratic wave year nationally, she won by only 50.1% to 43.7%, or a margin of 120,000 votes. Ominously for Democrats outside of Portland, she carried Multnomah County by just 196,000 votes, and lost the state outside of Multnomah and Washington counties by 136,000 votes.

If Brown’s accession was by accident, the next two stages in Portland’s accession within Democratic politics was by design. Oregon gained an additional Congressional seat, and Democrats, who already held four out of five seats, decided to draw a map that would give them five of six. The method was to spread Portland’s votes into as many districts as possible.

The first victim was not a Republican but a Democrat, Congressman Kurt Schrader, a moderate who had represented Oregon’s Pacific Coastline and the state capitol of Salem since 2009. In 2021, Democrats led by Speaker Tina Kotek, drew Schrader’s seat into the Portland area as part of their gerrymander. In 2022, Schrader lost his primary to Jamie Mcleod-Skinner, a former local city council member in California who was endorsed by Elizabeth Warren. Schrader, who ultimately voted to impeach Donald Trump, had referred to the President’s first impeachment as a “lynching,” and despite endorsements by Pelosi and Joe Biden, that was enough to defeat him. Mcleod-Skinner, who has never won office in Oregon, now faces a tough race in November against Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who even Democratic internal polls have narrowly ahead 42%-41%.

Kotek, meanwhile, has gone on to become the Democratic nominee for governor. There is no ambiguity about her politics or appeal: Kotek, who is lesbian, represents a seat in northwest Portland, where her Republican opponent managed 20% in her first race back in 2006, and the party has not bothered to challenge her since. She was endorsed by Elizabeth Warren.

Kotek faces not just Republican Christine Drazen, but also Betsy Johnson, who served as a Democratic State Senator for 16 years from 2005 to 2021. A social moderate, she is pro-choice but opposes allowing transgender individuals to participate in women’s sports. Johnson has earned some bipartisan support, receiving endorsements from former Republican Senator Gordon Smith and former Democratic Governor Ted Kulgonski. Most dramatically, Congressman Kurt Schrader endorsed her last week.

It is difficult to poll a three-way race. Third party candidates often poll well before fading, unless they manage to knock off one of the major party candidates. What should concern Kotek and Democrats is that no poll has had Kotek above 34% of the vote. Combined with Kate Brown’s toxic numbers and the perception that Kotek is Kate Brown 2.0, it seems that many voters are trying to figure out which of Johnson or Drazen is most likely to end the rule of the Portland mafia.

Much like Oregon politics in general, the gubernatorial contest has become a conflict between Portland and the rest of the state. That Kulgonski and Schrader, would endorse Johnson over Kotek is evidence enough that Democrats in the rest of the state do not want to be ruled by Portland, or for Portland to be a model for the state. It is not just that Portland has become a national symbol of government which ignores social breakdown and the basic duties of governing, but that Kate Brown’s tenure is perceived as the embodiment of that trend.

Johnson’s own trajectory indicates that if Drazen wins, she may find unlikely allies in the legislature. Republicans tied the State House as recently as 2016, and with an unpopular statewide candidate and much of the party in revolt, it is seen as plausible Democrats could lose actual or effective control.

In any event, Oregon will be a state to watch this November, as a lesson for all parties in the dangers of allowing one city and one political group to dominate an entire state.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.

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Sean Richman
1 month ago

The whole west coast has turned into a magnet for dysfunctional liberals and their economy will suffer.

1 month ago

I urge everyone, regardless of party lines, to watch 2,000 Mules. The rigging is alarming! And if the FBI will not investigate and make arrests, I’m afraid election fraud will continue in the coming years:(

1 month ago

Winning elections of state and Fed races in these states is a result of the DemocRat Party’s intricate ability to rig elections. If you want true Democratic governance, this voting rigging has to be stopped. But so far, few if any elections in these states seems to be hustling to fix the problem. If the DemocRats were as competent and effective in GOVERNANCE as they were in election rigging it would be much more difficult to put a stop to. Fellow Americans, you shouldn’t be worried that this Nation has lost its system of Constitutional Governance … it has already happened to a degree that is alarming.

Judy Gonzales
1 month ago

I’ve lived in Oregon all my life, and only in the most recent years have I seen what these devils have been doing in our state. President Donald Trump brought it all out in the open. As a common citizen, I always hoped our elected officials were honest and forthcoming. But after 2016, we began to realize that the purpose of mail-in voting for the Demoncrats was to commit voter fraud. I have found that most of the people claiming to be Liberal or Progressive Democrats are mean, have a serious potential to be violent, rude, and liars. Republicans aren’t perfect but are a far cry from the evil characteristics of most Democrats. I’m praying we can turn Oregon around, but we need a Party with moral integrity and a backbone to get it done. There are a lot of uneducated ignorant youth of voting age now. Last I read in the news, that Oregon was trying to lower the voting age to 16. We all know what that means!
So please pray for Oregon and other states being dominated by evil.

1 month ago
Reply to  Judy Gonzales

Praying for something might work to ease the conscious of some but, this government is so corrupt and treasonous, it’s going to take more than prayers to save our Republic! Two plus years ago, Trump said that “there will be blood in the streets”! Now, I know that his prediction was right on. We don’t have any alternatives and we’re headed for an outright revolution if we want and hope for the survival of our Republic!

1 month ago

Portland is enamored in limitless and endless stupidity.

1 month ago

Colorado is in the same boat–majority Democratic legislature and a democratic governor who pays no attention to the rural areas of Colorado. I can’t wait for the turnover to happen here soon!

1 month ago

Having lived in Mult. Co. and having volunteered there for True the Vote, I know the cheating that occurs. Oregon has mail in voting only. Oregon allows anyone to vote. Mult. Co does not destroy excess nor returned ballots. Overnite a race can be changed in the county that determines the state future. They perfected cheating. And the third party is to suck away independent votes from the Republican. On purpose.

Kathryn Dahlstrom
1 month ago
Reply to  Deborah

Deborah, thank you for sharing this. It’s outrageous! I don’t know if you still live in Oregon, but know this: my husband and I are prayer warriors. In Jesus’ Name, we will pray that the dark hearts in control of Oregon will be forced out of power. We’re praying the same for every state in the U.S. We often can’t see how good change can happen, but the Lord is working in ways we can’t see. This isn’t just a fight between Republicans and Democrats. It’s a fight between angels and demons. Heaven’s mightiest warriors are breaking evil strongholds as we pray. The Lord has allowed America to go through tough times so that people will grasp their need for Him. But now, watch Him bring about change. We pay attention to modern-day prophets. They are declaring that America will be saved!

Patricia A Arsenault
1 month ago

WE THE PEOPLE….need AND have to take back our HOUSE & COUNTRY! As always…#AmericaFirst

Kathryn Dahlstrom
1 month ago

How can political leaders in a place like Portland expect to win when their policies have led to the ruination of a lovely city? Radical left activists made downtown Portland an ongoing war zone, worse than what happened in Minneapolis because their vandalism goes on and on. Let us good citizens rise up against them in righteous rage! Let that happen all over America to the point where our numbers are too great for them to cheat against! And let diligent, courageous heroes stand guard at the ballot places. God is with us!

1 month ago

WE THE PEOPLE need a nationwide revolt against those in power…throw them all out by any means necessary!

Marie Langley
1 month ago

If you want lower taxes, smaller government, energy independence and lower gas prices, and a strong military, vote Republican. It’s just common sense and Economics 101.

If you like paying high taxes, high gas prices, having huge government programs, and a weak military then vote Democrat you idiots.

Darius Dickison
1 month ago

Don’t just sit there and take their cr*p.
You own the country.
Officials do what you tell them to or else!
It’s about GOoDNESS, Freedom, Health, Wealth, and being an example to the world.
Politeness and giving respect to cr*pholes that slithered into office is stupid. DON’T BE STUPID!

1 month ago

I love the hope expressed in the article. I noticed that she didn’t mention Chicago vs the rest of Illinois. As a resident of California, i agree that the suburbs of LA are a help but more than not, LA and San Francisco vote Blue and that is all it takes.

Michael J
1 month ago

The biggest counter to election fraud are maditory term limits. So far, dying and sex scandals are the only thing that can remove crooked lifetime career politicians and bureaucrats. But there’s always another waiting in the shadows, then it starts allover again.

1 month ago

If we can overcome the thousands of illegal votes, will we prevail. If only…

1 month ago

It is sad that people do not want to vote and then talk about all the bad crime, taxes and inflation. In my opinion this is why the Marxist democrat party continues to take these blue states. Same old same old and no good message by Republicans. Time to circle the wagon and stick together to have a fair and honest election if the Republicans truly want to change the status quo

Jake the snake
1 month ago

The Republicans would have to decide to commit voter fraud like tge democrats in washington state, Oregon and california do.

The two main voter fraud mechanisms: dominion voting machines and pre-filled mail in ballots.

The third version of voter fruad is the motor voter law followed up with giving illegals the right to get drivers licenses. It’s less reliable and dependent on constantly increasing give aways. That is why california is broke

Jorge L Rios
1 month ago

Up untill the mid 1800’s the U.S. enjoyed a voter turn out of over 90% even though back then there were no telephones, no internet, people traveled on foot or by horse, mail carriers got around on horse back, and yet american citizens found it important enough to make it the polls to vote on election day. Why in todays “modern” world must we have “early voting”, mail in voting??? Voting should be done ON election day in person unless you are bed riden or in the military and stationed away from home, NO EXCEPTIONS. Anything else opens the door to fraud and cheating.

Old man winter
1 month ago
Reply to  Jorge L Rios

Could only give you 1 plus sigh on here. So here are a 1000x +++++±+++++++++++++++++++++++

Patriot Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  Jorge L Rios

Absolutely 100% CORRECT!!! Time to take back our country!! #MAGA #STOPTHESTEAL #FJB

1 month ago
Reply to  Jorge L Rios

..but only a small portion of the populace was eligible to vote–in the early days only male landowners.

1 month ago
Reply to  Jorge L Rios

Over 100 million Americans have disabilities that do not cause them to be bedridden, but they cannot get out to vote so they have to vote by mail, it has to do more with morality than physical status. In the 70’s my husband and I were trying to get people around us to see the condition of the educational system and the push to get God out of the schools, but we were called alarmist, etc. This did not happen over night but death by a thousand cuts. Ever pick blackberries, there comes a time when you give up the fruit because the thorns win, when I was young and did not know better Then comes with wisdom (God’s Word) you ignore the thorns and do the work anyway.

1 month ago

Detroit has run Michigan politics for the 6 decades of my life. These single-city-control issues must be overcome to return any democratic aspects to our elections.
Single-city-control is ALWAYS totalitarian, and must end.
Vote wiser.

Nick Murphy
1 month ago

Why do you think the Liberals want your guns? If they get your guns away from you they will run rough shod over the top of you. Look at all the Communist Marxist countries, as soon as the guns went away the government took over and elections went away. Not that they mean that much now anyway with the IRS doj FBI and the media all being in the bag for the Democrats

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