Politicians want to make history—not be history. But May 19 proved a Waterloo for four of Oregon's establishment figures, all white men in their 50s who have previously enjoyed ballot success. Two of them sought redemption from scandal, another tried to rebound from a costly loss, and the last looked to graduate from obscurity into the big time. All endured painful nights. While politics is a game of comebacks, it's hard to see these candidates returning from the trouncing they took last week.
Sam Adams: Once the golden boy of Portland politics who won a City Council seat in 2004 and was elected mayor in 2008, Adams saw his prospects disintegrate in a series of scandals focused on his personal behavior. He sought a comeback against Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. Despite high name recognition, a slew of endorsements and contributions, and a $105,000 independent expenditure campaign by union pals, Adams placed a surprising third behind Eudaly and newcomer Mingus Mapps.
Jeff Cogen: Like Adams, the former Multnomah County chair sought a comeback from scandal—he resigned in 2013 following an affair with a subordinate. Once on the shortlist to be the next mayor of Portland, Cogen performed extraordinarily poorly on election night, winning just 9 percent of the vote against newcomer Khanh Pham in Oregon House District 46.
Knute Buehler: A Rhodes scholar, orthopedic surgeon and former Oregon State baseball player, Buehler twice won statewide GOP nominations and twice won a House seat in a blue Bend district. But he tacked so far to the middle as the Republican nominee in the 2018 governor's race his claims to be a conservative in the four-way GOP race to replace U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in the 2nd Congressional District seemed like a parody. Real conservatives punished him, handing the race to former state Sen. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario).
Sam Chase: With 25 years' experience as a high-level staffer to Gov. John Kitzhaber and City Commissioners Gretchen Kafoury, Erik Sten and Nick Fish, as well as top-shelf nonprofit work and two terms as a Metro councilor, Chase should have been formidable in the race to succeed Fish. He finished fifth.