Race Predictions

Race Predictions & Ballot Measures

ORLA is Backing Drivers’ Cards and Top Two Primary Measures

Election season is now upon us. Oregon ballots will be in our mailboxes in the coming days, and soon enough voters will be overwhelmed with campaign advertisements and political mail.

Voter turnout might not be as high this election cycle due to the fact that the big-ticket statewide races do not seem to be that competitive. Both Governor John Kitzhaber and US Senator Jeff Merkley should not have any problem getting re-elected.

Most of the election turnout this cycle will be based on ballot measures. The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) is supporting two of the measures on the Oregon ballot this November.

Yes on Measure 88: The “Drivers’ Card” measure is a collaborative effort that business, union, law enforcement, and faith-based groups have worked on for a couple of years. This law passed the Oregon Legislature in the form of Senate Bill 833. Then an out-of-state donor paid a majority of the money to refer the measure.

This measure allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue limited-use driver cards to Oregon residents who meet the following requirements: pass the State’s written driver knowledge test, pass the State’s behind-the-wheel driver test, provide proof of residence in Oregon for more than one year, and provide proof of identity and date of birth. Those who are issued this card cannot use it for any other purpose than driving and obtaining car insurance. The State of Oregon realized that without federal action on immigration reform there was a driver safety issue in Oregon, so the law was passed as a bridge until action is taken at the federal level. ORLA requests your support of Measure 88.

Yes on Measure 90: The “Top Two Primary” measure should help both small businesses and the political process in Oregon. It is aimed at protecting both moderate Democrats and Republicans from the ever-increasing threats by government employee unions and social conservative groups.

Districts in Marion, Washington, and Clackamas counties have voter registration numbers that might lean towards being strong Republican or Democratic makeup, meaning they have registration advantages of six points or more. However, they are relatively moderate districts as far as political philosophy is considered. With the current system, if an incumbent works on a compromise solution, the more hard-core party loyalists will threaten to take the legislator out in the primary. This outcome leaves more extreme Democrats and extreme Republicans for general election voters to choose from. Under the “Top Two Primary” proposal, the top two vote getters – regardless of party affiliation – would move to the general election. This could consist of two Republicans in a more R-leaning district, or two Democrats in a more D-leaning district, which in turn would likely give these districts a more moderate option to choose from. ORLA also asks you to support Measure 90.

This is where the battleground seems to be forming for November. Recently, Democratic leaders have begun to advocate for issues like statewide paid sick leave, a minimum wage increase to $12 per hour or higher, and a state mandated retirement program on private employers. This move does not bode well for strengthening small businesses or growing the economy. Therefore, if Democrats make big strides in this year’s election, these proposals could become reality.

The Oregon Senate is currently controlled by Democrats in a split of 16-14 over Republicans. Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) worked with her Republican colleagues to stop some of the major scares to the business community, but worked with her own caucus to pass the budget.

The Senate Democrats are going hard after Republican incumbents in Corvallis, Hillsboro, and Canby. At this point in the election cycle, it looks like Democrat Sara Gelser may beat Republican Betsy Close in Corvallis to gain a seat. Senate Republicans are gunning for the Democratic incumbent in Ashland; Dave Dotterrer almost took out Democratic Senator Alan Bates in Southern Oregon four years ago, and is trying for the second time. It is a tough uphill battle for Dotterrer, however.

The Senate will probably finish at 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans.

The Oregon House of Representatives in controlled by Democrats in a 34-26 split over Republicans. Historically in non-presidential years, Republicans pick up seats in the House and many in Salem expect the same this year. The outcome will probably not be enough for Republicans to get back to a 30-30 divide like they were four years ago.

The hot races are a couple of contests in the Hillsboro area, Oregon City, Happy Valley, and Central Oregon. Polling numbers are like a moving target, and while most of the Democratic incumbents still have a lead, some are shrinking and two seats are open where the Republicans appear to be fairing a little better. Political history tells us that the Democratic margin should shrink, but probably only by a couple of points, so expect the Democrats to retain control at about a 32-28 split.

With the numbers closer in the House, Oregon business advocates should be able to stop most of the detrimental legislation – from a business perspective. But, with the expectation that Democratic leaders want to pass the issues mentioned above, getting legislators to shift gears and promote business growth could be a heavy lift. Hopefully, the “Top Two Primary” measure will pass and provide more promise for the future in the next election cycle. | BILL PERRY

BILL PERRY • BPerry@OregonRLA.org