Could the nation’s only openly bisexual governor be in trouble on election day? Serving as Oregon’s Lt. Governor, Kate Brown took over when her predecessor, John Kitzhaber, was forced to resign in 2015 because of the increasing number of law enforcement officials who wanted to chat with him. She was seen as a natural for the position and given Oregon’s deep blue status, her reelection was considered to be a given. So how is it that the Cook Political Report just moved her race into toss-up territory? (The Hill)
Nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report shifted their prediction for the Oregon gubernatorial race from “lean democrat” to “toss up” Tuesday.
Although Oregon is a deep-blue state, incumbent Gov. Kate Brown (D) has faced a stern challenge from Rep. Knute Buehler (R).
A poll released Tuesday gave her a 40 to 35 percent lead, with 17 percent of voters remaining undecided.
Cook argues that some of the closeness of this election may have to do with the controversy-riddled tenure of previous Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, whose resignation led to Brown’s ascension to office in early 2015.
Putting this race in the toss-up category might seem a bit premature because Brown is still holding a five-point lead in the polling average. But we’re talking about five points in a race where 17 percent of the voters are still saying they are undecided barely three weeks out. And that’s in a state where Democrats hold a 36-26 registration advantage. Brown should be solidly above water at this point but she’s clearly lost her popular support.
The Cook analysis mentions the unpopularity of multiple tax increases under Brown’s tenure and that’s probably at least part of it. They also point to the remaining taint of corruption surrounding the previous governor and the fact that Brown was part of his administration. I couldn’t rule that out entirely, but that scandal really had less to do with the administration as a whole and more with the relationship between Kitzhaber and his fiancee, who wound up being a sort of unelected government official dipping into the taxpayer’s money.
Perhaps a bigger factor here is a general sense of unease over the direction Oregon’s social justice government agenda has taken. The news must be full of stories of how traffic in Portland has been directed by Antifa thugs who appear to be running the city. Their liberal policies have led to a homelessness problem that’s simply spiraled out of control. The city is in a nearly constant state of anarchy. Much of the blame is rightly being assigned to Mayor Wheeler, but keep in mind that Portland represents almost 1/4 of the population of the state.
Such perceptions carry over to the Governor’s office and Oregon voters may be waking up to the reality that a government built on a social justice warrior agenda isn’t really doing much to keep the citizens safe or ensure the trains are running on time. I still wouldn’t suggest it’s time to start uncorking the champagne bottles for Republican Knute Buehler, but the latest polling average still shows him well within striking distance with plenty of undecided voters out there. If Democratic enthusiasm is sagging, a low turnout election could deliver a surprise here.