To beat Gov. Kate Brown yesterday, state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) needed to do well in the Portland metro area and particularly in Multnomah County, the state's largest source of votes.
Buehler pushed hard to appeal to Portland voters. He moved temporarily to the metro area from Bend and made the city's housing shortage and its troubles dealing with its homeless population major campaign issues.
But despite spending nearly twice as much as any previous candidate for governor, statewide Buehler barely matched the performance of past Republican candidates for governor. And in Multnomah County, Buehler's share of votes is the lowest for the Republican candidate for governor in two decades.
With ballots from 68.5 percent eligible voters counted, Buehler received 43.8 percent of the votes. In Multnomah County, he's at 22.2 percent of the vote, while Brown's 73.8 percent is the highest for the Democratic candidate in more than two decades.
Multnomah County is the largest of Oregon's 36 counties, accounting for more than 20 percent of the state's eligible voters. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Multnomah County by more than 4 to 1.
The opportunity for Buehler in Multnomah County: the large number of non-affiliated voters, who outnumber Republicans in Multnomah County 2.5 to 1. Although conventional wisdom is those voters lean left, the fact that they don't feel strongly enough to register with a party suggested they might be swayed by the moderate policies Buehler laid out: He claimed he was pro-choice, willing to work on gun control and a believer in climate change. He said he'd also bring some "tough love" to Portland streets.
Multnomah County voters didn't bite.
In 2006, Republican Ron Saxton, who lived in Portland, got 25.2 percent of the vote in Multnomah County and lost to Democrat Ted Kulongoski by 8 points.
In 2010, Republican Chris Dudley, who lived in Lake Oswego, got 27.4 percent of the vote in Multnomah County and lost to Democrat John Kitzhaber by 1.5 points.
In 2014, Republican Dennis Richardson, who lived in Central Point, got 23.1 percent of the vote in Multnomah County and lost to incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber by 5.8 points.
Richardson, a pro-life, pro-gun social conservative, did better than Buehler in Multnomah County. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Buehler has just 22.2 percent of the vote in Multnomah County and is losing to Gov. Kate Brown by 6.1 points.