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Oregon Midterms: Winners and Losers

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

 

Gov. John Kitzhaber

Tuesday night’s midterm elections proved to be a significant win for liberals in Oregon and a major defeat for Democrats in D.C.

Oregon Democrats Governor John Kitzhaber, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer won handily. Democrats were also projected to pick up seats in the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives.

Marijuana Gets the Base Out 

The biggest surprise of the night was that Measure 91 passed with a wide margin.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 71 percent of the vote in, 91 was passing with 54 percent saying yes and 46 percent saying no.

Chief petitioner Anthony Johnson wrote in a Tuesday night email, “Oregonians had the wisdom to consider this measure based upon its merits and to move past the outdated information of a failed prohibitionist system.”

Slideshow Below: Oregon Election Night

“I’m not surprised that it won, but given what people expected - that turnout would be down - the margin of victory was really surprising,” said political strategist Len Bergstein. “It energized the base.”

Typically, midterm elections see low turnout from Democrats and liberals. Given that, recent polls showed the measure could have failed.

Anthony Johnson, right, takes photos with fellow Measure 91 supporters. Photo by Meghan Nolt.

But the measure turned out to be a base-rallying cause that mobilized liberals and probably had other strong impacts down the ticket, at least in liberal hubs and urban centers like Portland and Eugene.

Bergstein believes Democrats in other states may try to use pot legalization to get out voters for 2016.

“It’s a good tool for getting the base vote out,” Bergstein said. “I think it sets the stage for a lot of western states for 2016.”

Jill Harris, a representative for Drug Policy Action - the single largest financial contributor to the campaign - said the organization is looking forward to the 2016 election and legalizing marijuana in more states.

GMO Puts Up a Fight

At 11 p.m. Measure 92 was too close to call, with 69 percent of the votes counted, 51 percent voting no and 49 percent voting yes.

Operatives for the Yes on 92 campaign were optimistic that the measure could still receive enough votes to pass. Heavily liberal Multnomah County still had a significant number of votes to be counted.

"The vote is already closer than it was when the measure ran in California and Washington so that's very optimistic," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety at the 'Yes on 92' campaign’s party on Tuesday night.

“It's amazing to me that it’s gone so well considering the amount of money that has been spent against it,” Bergstein said. “It’s one of the most impressive campaigns of its type in Oregon history.”

All told, over $20 million dollars was spent to try and defeat the campaign, almost all of it out-of-state money, making it the most expensive ballot campaign in Oregon history. Donors included Monsanto, which contributed over $5 million and DuPont Pioneer, which contributed over $4.6 million.

Sheryl Sauer, a communications office for DuPont Pioneer said,  “We believe consumers should have access to the information they need to make decisions about their food,” and that the company would continue working to identify a national solution that meets consumers' needs.

Democrats Gain Power in Oregon, Wyden loses some

Oregon U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley voting in downtown Portland Tuesday morning. // Joanna Evoniuk GoLocalPDX

With projected pick up in the state senate and house, Oregon's Democrats will also have the opportunity to be more aggressive with their agenda after Tuesday.

With stronger majorities in both houses Democrats might try to revisit issues like gun control and creating a legal aide fund for indigent suspects: two ideas that died in previous legislative sessions.

Bergstein said the driver’s card’s for undocumented immigrants might even get revisited, even though Measure 88 went down in flames on Tuesday.

“They have a commanding lead,” Bergstein said. “It will open the gates on a bunch of social policy issues.”

That said, the Democrats suffered a major midterm loss in Congress. By early Wednesday morning, Republicans were projected to pick up seven U.S. Senate seats and 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That’s bad news for the President, who the GOP have been relentlessly grinding away at for the past six years.

But locally it means that Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden will get bumped off his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee.

Wyden has fought to keep federal dollars flowing to rural Oregon, mostly in the form of timber payments.  With him losing his chairmanship, keeping to his old agenda may be difficult.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon Midterm Election Night 2014

GoLocalPDX has the highlights of some of the midterm election parties here. 

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"I've been a walking advertisement for months," says Robin White, an active supporter of Measure 92. Photo by Meghan Nolt

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A young supporter of Measure 92 organizes the button table. Photo by Meghan Nolt.

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Anthony Johnson, right, takes photos with fellow Measure 91 supporters. Photo by Meghan Nolt.

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Executive Director of the Oregon Cannabis Industry Anthony Johnson, left, shakes the hand of Earl Blumenauer shortly after the legalization of marijuana in Oregon. Photo by Meghan Nolt.

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Various signs supporting label requirement for food containing genetically modified organisms decorate the Annex at the Yes on 92 party Tuesday night. Photo by Meghan Nolt

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Photo by Meghan Nolt

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Yes on 91 Party

U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer: Photo by Meghan Nolt 

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U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. Photo by Meghan Nolt

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Yes on 92 Party

Ben Harper with the 'Yes on Measure 92' campaign. 

"Obviously I'm hoping for it to pass. The passing of Measure 92 will be really positive for Oregon." 

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Yes on 92 Party

Non GMO refreshments at the 'Yes on Measure 92' campaign party. 

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Yes on 92 Party

Julia DeGraw from Food and Water Watch, Rick North with Right To Know Oregon, and Andrew Kimbrell with the Center for Food Safety

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Yes on 92 Party

GMO labeling proponents gather round as Julia DeGraw from the Food and Water Watch speaks. 

"This is an amazing and potentially historic moment."

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Yes on 92 Party

George Kimbrell from the Center for Food Safety speaks at the 'Yes on Measure 92' campaign party.

"You struggle and you succeed, that's how social movements work."

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Yes on 92 Party

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Democratic Party

Senator Ron Wyden spoke to the crowd at the Democrat election night party in the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland. 

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Merkley Campaign Party

Senator Merkley spoke to crowds with his family at the Democrat election night party after his re-election was announced. 

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Merkley Campaign Party

A Merkley supporter takes in the excitement of the crowd after Merkley's reelection was announced at the Democrat election night party. 

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Yes on 88 Party

Supporters of Measure 88, which would have given undocumented residents driver cards, look on in disappointment at the news of the defeated measure. 

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Yes On 91 Party

"It is a great day in Oregon!" 

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Yes On 91 Party

Shirtless Ryan Filmmakers, Nick and John 

"The war on drugs is inherently racist and socially oppressive," said Nick. 

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Yes On 91 Party

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Yes On 91 Party

"The war on drugs in Oregon is over!" Robert said, (on far right). 

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Yes On 91 Party

"It's like any other civil rights issue to me," Dj King said. 

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Yes On 91 Party

"It's very encouraging that Oregon is now part of the movement," Matthew said. 

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Yes On 91 Party

"The whole nation has to change."

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Yes On 91 Party

"I'm very excited that 40 percent [of tax revenues] will be going to education," said Kate Bellant. 

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Almost every attendee at the Yes on 92 party wore their support. Photo by Meghan Nolt.

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Photo by Meghan Nolt

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A woman holds up a sign in support of legalizing marijuana while Democratic reelect Earl Blumenauer speaks in favor of the newly passed bill.   Photo by Meghan Nolt

 
 

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