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slides: Oregon’s 7 New Political Power Players

Monday, November 10, 2014


Photo Credit: iStock

Now that Oregon’s elections are over, who gained political power and who has their eye on the next election?

Many political figures walked away from the statewide elections with victories - some were new to office and many were incumbents. The biggest winners out of Oregon’s 2014 elections however, are those that have won new power or strengthened their hand.

The scandals that surrounded Gov. John Kitzhaber’s reelection campaign proved to be no obstacle for the Democrat to earn his historic fourth term as governor. Although Oregon’s Republican party didn't win the gubernatorial race, they earned something much more valuable: an opportunity to be taken seriously by a new base of voters. With accusations of ethics violations, a number of voters who had elected Kitzhaber previously would have considered giving their vote to an opposition candidate, but didn’t, because, as one voter said, “that’s crazy.” Richardson’s voting record in the Oregon State Legislature included sponsorship of a bill that would have added restrictions for abortions, while also rejecting legislation for gay rights. Richardson took the majority of voting precincts around the state but didn’t do nearly as well in the Willamette Valley, where most of the state’s population resides.

If the Oregon GOP can become more centrist, they may have a chance at avoiding another shellacking in the next election.

Until then, look for the group comprising Oregon's new political elite - a power set of players who have enjoyed a fantastic rise to 2014 victories and will likely continue to ascend into the spotlight going forward.


Related Slideshow: Oregon’s 7 New Political Power Players

Check out GoLocalPDX's list of Oregon's 7 New Political Power Players:

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1 to 5: The Power Set

1) Oregon Representative Tina Kotek (D)

The Speaker of the State House of Representatives was re-elected to represent North and NE Portland with 83 percent of the vote. She's also leader of the House Democratic Caucus, which gained a member in the election.

The University of Oregon graduate, who is also Speaker of the House, has energized a base of young voters by advocating for education reform - namely capping college tuition and fees and expanding the Oregon Opportunity Grant.

With statewide offices being vacated in 2016 and the open race for governor coming up in 2018, Kotek may not stay House Speaker for long.

To become Oregon's first openly gay governor, she'll have to expand her base beyond the young and urban voters who support her.

Portland political analyst James Moore said that for Kotek to continue her political rise into the governorship, "she's got to show she's not just a Portland city representative, and the Speaker position is a great position to show that."

While younger voters may be enthusiastic about her, "proportionally they don't vote very much," Moore said.

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1 to 5: The Power Set

2) Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D)

Ellen Rosenblum is the first female attorney general in the state's history.

She could be a strong candidate for the gubernatorial race in 2018, considering she's already won a statewide partisan election to earn her current position in 2012.

With the scandals and controversy surrounding the re-election campaign of Gov. John Kitzhaber, which included multiple accusations of ethics violations, voters may be wanting the sound judgement of a candidate with decades of experience practicing law.

Rosenblum is married to Richard Meeker, publisher of Portland newspaper Willamette Week. If elected governor, she and Meeker may be the most influential power couple to have ever lived in Mahonia Hall.

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1 to 5: The Power Set

3) Oregon Senator Peter Courtney (D)

Marion County voters once again re-elected the most tenured member of the state legislature, Rep. Peter Courtney.

Courtney, who is also an instructor at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, is a member of five legislative committees, including the capitol construction subcommittee.

Given the length of time he's held his position as a legislator, it's unlikely that Courtney aspires to higher political office but with Democrats picking up two seats in the legistlature, he now oversees a chamber with that much more power to achieve the party’s agenda. It may be the best senate he’s commanded in years. 

Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse said Republican lawmakers will be unable to stop almost all initiatives proposed by democrats, except for those pertaining to certain topics, like taxes.

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1 to 5: The Power Set

4) U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R)

Greg Walden is the only Republican representing Oregon in Congress, but is considered by some pundits to be one of the top five most powerful Republican lawmakers in the nation.

While his congressional district encompasses most of the state, Walden hasn't been especially focused on campaign issues. Instead, he's been operating the Republican Congressional Leadership Committee, an organization tasked with increasing the number of Republicans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

With the Republicans taking a staggering 246 seats in the U.S. House this election, he’s sure to get a slap on the back and perhaps a promotion.

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1 to 5: The Power Set

5) Oregon Representative Susan McClain (D)

Voters elected McClain to serve on the Metro Council for four consecutive terms before electing her to represent Oregon's 3rd district in the state House of Representatives.

McClain, a schoolteacher from Hillsboro, ran her campaign on education reforms and environmental protection, and may play a significant role in legislation that would establish a sustainable source of funding to support the state's colleges and universities.

With proven electability, it's anyone's guess where McClain's political career may take her.

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The WIld Cards

6) City Club of Portland Executive Director Sam Adams (D)

Although Adams isn't technically running for anything (yet), he has been politically active with the City Club of Portland - a think tank focused on public policy.

Since leaving office, the former mayor of Portland has been busy taking the helm as the organization's technical director - increasing members by approximately 50 percent in two years.

With the name recognition and political clout to make a comeback to public office, many are looking to Adams to make a bid in 2018.

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The Wild Cards

7) Secretary of State Kate Brown (D)

As Secretary of State, Brown passed a series of reforms — like streamlining how a measure is put on a ballot  — that earned Oregon top marks in elections transparency from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. She also implemented online voter registration.

The most dynamic thing about Brown, however, is her political position now: she acts as a de-facto lieutenant governor, while at the same time benefiting from being outside the Governor’s office itself. Although Oregon doesn't have a lieutenant governor, under state law Brown would step in should the governor be unable to perform his duties of office. 

With ethics probes against Kitzhaber and several investigations into Cover Oregon set to begin, we'll see what happens.


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