Democrats Are Barely Clinging to Their Supermajorities in the Oregon Legislature

They lost a seat in the House of Representatives.

Democrats are still barely clinging to their supermajorities in the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives, assuming the current ballot tally holds.

But in at least four races, the count is too close to be certain of the outcome.

Democrats lost a seat in the House, where if current results hold they will outnumber Republicans by as much as 37 to 23, while maintaining their current 18-12 hold in the Senate.

But Democrats are clinging to victory by an astonishingly small margin: Rep. Anna Williams (D-Hood River) leads in a rematch against former Rep. Jeff Helfrich, whom she defeated two years ago, by 94 votes (or less than a quarter of a percentage point). And Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) leads his opponent, Republican Brian Stout, by 518 votes (or less than a percentage point of votes cast).

In the Senate, Democratic challenger Deb Patterson has a lead of less than 387 votes (or half a percentage point) over Sen. Denyc Boles (R-Salem).

And state Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend) is holding off a challenge by Democrat Eileen Kiely by under 2,000 votes, or less than 2 percentage points.

Before the election, there had been some speculation whether Democrats could increase their advantage in both chambers by enough seats to conduct business without the consent of Republicans.

An increase of two seats in each house would have given Democrats a three-quarters majority—enough to render worthless the Republican tactic of walking out to halt the passage of progressive legislation. (A quorum requires three-quarters of members be present under the Oregon Constitution.)

Instead, Democrats are now hoping to merely maintain their supermajority, which allows them to pass tax increases without bipartisan support.

The results make clear that Oregon, like the nation, has become polarized by geography. Democrats lost three coastal seats previously held by moderate Democrats who decided not to run for reelection.

The North Coast had the most expensive House race in Oregon history. Democratic candidate Debbie Boothe-Schmidt raised $1.4 million while Republican Suzanne Weber raised $1.2 million. Weber nonetheless won the seat being vacated by state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell (D-Astoria) by 8 points (54% to 46%).

On the South Coast, in a seat vacated by Rep. Caddy McKeown (D), Gerald "Boomer" Wright, a Republican, handily beat Democrat Cal Mukumoto (56% to 42%).

In Senate District 5, a seat being vacated by state Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), Democrat Melissa Cribbins lost to Republican Dick Anderson, the Lincoln City mayor, in a closer race (49% to 47%).

On the other hand, Democrats picked up a seat in Bend. Prosecutor Jason Kropf defeated incumbent Rep. Cheri Helt (R-Bend) decisively (60% to 39%). That keeps Democrats in the supermajority in the House if the close races remain as is.

In 2018, Democrats in the Oregon statehouse rode the national blue wave to win supermajorities in the statehouse, allowing them to pass new taxes without a Republican vote or a referral to the ballot.