Washington Post Puts Oregon Governor’s Race in National Context

Other blue states, including Vermont, Maryland and Massachusetts elect GOP governors.

Gov. Kate Brown poses for a photo at the Northwest Oregon Labor Council AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic at Oaks Park.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 260,000 registered voters, the race for governor usually doesn't generate much national interest.

This year is shaping up to be different.

The Washington Post sent out a political reporter to kick the tires on Oregon's governor's race between incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat and state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), her GOP challenger.

Rep. Knute Buehler

The Post put Oregon in the context of other blue states, including Vermont, Maryland and Massachusetts, where most voters are Democrats but the governor is a Republican. Oregon has not elected a GOP governor since the late Vic Atiyeh defeated Ted Kulonogoski (a Democrat who would later serve as governor from 2003 to 2011) in 1982.

Buehler, a two-term state representative who lost to Brown in the 2012 secretary of state's race, has hired as his strategist Mike Leavitt, who helped get Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, elected in Maryland in 2014, despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans two-to-one, a far bigger advantage than Oregon Democrats enjoy.

Although Democrats here and across the country are likely to tar Republican candidates by linking them to President Donald Trump, a polling expert told the Post that may not be successful.

John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, cautioned that the allure of Republican governors in some traditionally Democratic states appears to be persisting, despite the Trump presidency, because swing voters still prefer some ideological "balance" in state governments.

"There is a real thirst and desire for people to see state lawmakers focus on issues that affect them in tangible ways, and sometimes that means reaching across party lines," Della Volpe told the Post.

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