2020 Vision: Oregon Elections!

In less than a week, hundreds of races across the country will be decided on Election Day, including multiple important seats in Oregon. Democrat Jeff Merkley is seeking his third term as Oregon’s junior senator. He has a significant lead on the Republic challenger Jo Rae Perkins, and the seat is considered a “safe Democrat” by Cook Political Report. For the House of Representatives, all four Democrats are running for reelection. Republican Greg Walden is retiring after 22 years representing the 2nd Congressional District. Locally, the Portland mayoral race has gained significant attention as a result of incumbent Ted Wheeler’s leadership of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). Reed alum Mingus Mapps ‘90 is challenging incumbent Chloe Eudaly for her position as the fourth City Commissioner. 

Merkley, originally elected in 2008, was the only U.S. Senator to endorse Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign. He previously served as the Speaker of the Oregon State House. Currently, he sits on the Senate Committees on Budget; Appropriations; Environment and Public Works; and Foreign Relations. According to his campaign website, Merkley believes America is threatened by three crises: a democracy crisis due to gerrymandering and voter suppression, a climate crisis due to extreme climate change and lack of action, and an opportunity crisis due to the lack of “affordable housing, quality education, healthcare, and good-paying jobs.” To protect democracy, he wants to overturn Citizens United, enact campaign finance reform, strengthen the Voting Rights Act, and abolish the electoral college. He supports the Green New Deal, especially reinvesting in infrastructure to reach 100% clean energy as soon as possible. A Medicare for All supporter, Merkley hopes to drastically improve healthcare access and end price gouging. He wants to reduce public school class sizes, restore technical education programs, and make college debt-free. He is pro-choice and pro-gun control. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Merkley has raised $11 million as of Oct. 14. 

Perkins, an insurance agent, served as the chair of the Linn County Republican Party. She has previously run for Senate in 2014 and the House in 2016 and 2018. A fan of President Trump, Perkins is “fiscally and socially conservative,” according to her campaign website. She is an adamant supporter of QAnon and was interviewed on their YouTube channel in January 2020. She does not believe that masks are necessary or that COVID-19 is dangerous, accusing Democrats of manipulating the death toll. Perkins wants to eliminate federal land oversight and toll roads. She supports the construction of a border wall. She is anti-choice and anti-gun control. As of Sept. 30, her campaign has raised approximately $90,000.

In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Suzanne Bonamici has a secure lead over challenger Christopher Christensen, labeled a “safe Democrat” seat. Originally elected in 2012, Bonamici has raised approximately $872,000. Christensen, a real estate consultant, has not submitted financial disclosures to the Federal Elections Committee (FEC). In District 2, a “safe Republican” seat, former State Senator Cliff Bentz is leading Democrat Alex Spenser. Bentz has raised $1.7 million while Spenser, a single mom and writer, has raised $17,000. Originally elected in 1996, Democrat Earl Blumenauer is facing Joanna Harbor for the 3rd District, a “safe Democrat” seat. A previous City Commissioner, Blumenauer has raised $1.6 million. Harbour, a small business owner and lawyer, has raised $11,000. In District 4, Republic Alek Skarlatos is challenging long-term incumbent Peter DeFazio. Founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, DeFazio was elected in 1986 and has raised $3.7 million. Skarlatos rose to fame in Aug. 2015 after he and two friends stopped a gunman on a train in France. (He also placed third on Season 21 of Dancing with the Stars with pro dancer Lindsay Arnold.) Skarlatos has raised $4.5 million, and the seat is currently labeled a “lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. In the 5th District, labelled a “safe Democrat” seat, incumbent Kurt Schrader is leading Republican Amy Ryan Courser. Elected in 2008, Schrader, who previously served in both the State House and Senate, has raised $1.8 million while businesswoman Courser has raised approximately $185,000. 

Locally, the Portland mayoral election is an interesting race with two formal candidates, incumbent Ted Wheeler and Sarah Iannarone, and a strong write-in campaign from Teressa Raiford. Portland elections have non-partisan primaries, meaning if no candidate wins a majority, the top two candidates advance to a run-off election regardless of party affiliation. In the primary, on May 19, Ted Wheeler received 49.29% of the votes, Iannarone received 23.82%, and Raiford received 8.40%. The most recent poll, done in mid-October by Oregon Public Broadcasting, had Wheeler and Iannarone practically tied with 33% and 34% respectively. Raiford polled at 6% but 28% of voters were still undecided. 

Wheeler, elected in 2016, served as the State Treasurer from 2010-2016 and as the chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners from 2007-2010. Registered as a Republican until 2001, he is known as a moderate Democrat. One of his early actions as mayor was to assign leadership of bureaus (departments of the city government) to members of the City Council (the mayor and the four Commissioners), and he assigned himself control of the PPB. Because of this, Wheeler has received significant criticism since protests began in May. Nicknamed “Tear Gas Teddy,” he has not banned tear gas and continues to allow brutal police tactics. On his campaign website, he says he will be a “champion” for “public safety system reform that reflects our community’s values and is responsive to calls for transformational change.” He wants to support small businesses, build a sustainable parks and recreation department, and mitigate the economic impacts of COVID. On Oct. 23, a judge ruled that the city must investigate a $150,000 loan Wheeler made to his own campaign. The loan was in violation of a 2018 measure capping personal loans to a campaign at $5,000. He is endorsed by the Oregonian.

Iannarone, a small business owner and community organizer, is running on a progressive platform. Her campaign website details her extensive plan for the first 100 days in office: put Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in charge of PPB, convert empty motels into affordable housing, and create a small business center for COVID recovery assistance. She wants to “rethink” public safety, and supports lower funding for the PPB. To improve housing accessibility, she supports the Tenant’s Bill of Rights, a continuing eviction moratorium, and dramatic action to feed and house all Portlanders. Iannarone supports campaign finance reform, the Green New Deal, and a guaranteed basic income pilot program. She hopes to invest marijuana taxes in communities impacted by the War on Drugs. She is endorsed by the Portland Mercury.

Raiford, a community activist, founded Don’t Shoot Portland in 2010, which has filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of protestors in recent months. While she did not advance to the run-off election, she is continuing with a strong write-in campaign. If elected, she would be the first Black mayor of Portland. According to her website, in the first 100 days, she wants to conduct audits and redistribute resources as needed. She is committed to disbanding the PPB, starting by cutting their budget, making disciplinary data public, and ending qualified immunity. She supports full rent cancelation and an extended eviction moratorium. Raiford hopes to improve accessibility, invest in BIPOC Portlanders, and empower marginalized communities.

Following Carmen Rubio’s victory for the first Commissioner position during the May primaries, only one Commissioner position is still on the ballot. Progressive incumbent Chloe Eudaly, elected in 2016, is trailing challenger Mingus Mapps. Eudaly, a former small business owner, is focused on combating the housing crisis by increasing affordable housing and expanding tenant protections. She is dedicated to reforming the police, investing in BIPOC communities, and fighting climate change. She is endorsed by the Portland Mercury. Mapps, a former city official and professor, presents himself as a pragmatist dedicated to bringing people together. While he wants police reform, Mapps does not support cutting PPB’s budget and is endorsed by the Portland Police Association, the PPB union. He is endorsed by the Oregonian

Whether local or national, a government has a significant impact on its citizens. To get involved with a specific campaign, visit their campaign website. To help engage new voters, learn more about When We All Vote and Rock The Vote. Register to vote in Oregon at sos.oregon.gov.

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