Notice a theme among the measures on the statewide ballot? Four of the five address conservatives' pet causes: abortion restrictions, immigration enforcement, and bans on raising taxes.

That's a reversal from the past few election cycles, which mostly featured proposals from progressives. And it suggests that beneath this fall's much-anticipated "blue wave" is a red riptide.

But try to keep things in perspective. In 1994, Oregon voters were asked to decide on no fewer than 18 statewide measures on one November ballot—including conservative campaigns to prohibit gay rights, mandate minimum sentences, and outlaw porn. For decades, ballot-measure kings like Kevin Mannix and Bill Sizemore made a living from gathering signatures to get such measures in front of Oregonians.

If conservative measures are experiencing a slight revival in popularity—like '90s sitcoms!—one reason may be that Republicans feel they have to use the initiative process because they have no shot at getting their ideas through the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled Legislature. The further Salem tilts left, says Republican state Rep. Julie Parrish (West Linn), the more likely conservatives are to appeal directly to voters.

"I'm sure if you're a Democrat in Texas, it's equally as frustrating," Parrish says. "The power pendulum should not ever be stuck in one position. Fifty percent of the state can't be wrong all the time."