Oregon Democrats Sweep to Super-Majorities in Both Legislative Chambers

Democrats now have three-fifths majorities in both the House and Senate, paving the way for possible tax increases.

A supporter of the Democratic Party of Oregon celebrates at the Downtown Hilton in Portland on Nov. 6, 2018. (Justin Katigbak)

It was a blue wave—in Oregon, anyway.

In a something of a surprise, Oregon Democrats have won a super-majority in both the state House and Senate.

Democrats knocked off two incumbent metro-area Republicans, as Rachel Prusak defeating state Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn) and Courtney Neron unseating state Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls). Democrats also picked up a seat in the Columbia River Gorge as Anna Williams, a Democratic newcomer, defeated incumbent Rep. Jeff Helfrich (R-Hood River) to gain a 38 to 22 majority.

Neron's defeat of Vial in House District 26 (Wilsonville and Sherwood) was perhaps the surprise of the evening. Neron raised just $40,000—an indication that neither the House Democratic caucus nor traditional party funders thought she had much of a chance against Vial, who raised $220,000.

"It was unclear what was going to happen in that seat," says House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) who directed the House Democratic campaign.

In the Senate, Democrat Jeff Golden grabbed a vacant Ashland seat, defeating Republican Jessica Gomez in Senate District 3. That is a Democratic pick-up because the seat is currently held by state Sen. Alan DeBoer (R-Ashland), who is retiring.

The race in Senate District 26 (Hood River, Cascade Locks and Sandy) is too close to call at this point. Democratic challenger Chrissy Reitz leads incumbent Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) by just 11 votes with 43,535 votes cast.

The significance of having super-majorities in both chambers is that Oregon law requires a three-fifths vote in each legislative body to pass new taxes. Tonight's result is no guarantee that Democrats will succeed in doing that but it has long been a goal of theirs. Democrats last held super-majorities in 2009.

"It was a great night," Williamson said. "Oregonians voted their values on carbon, fully-funding schools and paid family leave. We set out a vision and the voters responded."

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.