November 2, 2010 will go down as an historic Election Day in Oregon. Not only because of an uncommonly close gubernatorial race that made John Kitzhaber Oregon's first three-term Governor, but because voters also approved Ballot Measure 71 which for the first time instructs the Oregon Legislative Assembly to meet annually and pursuant to a strict schedule. The schedule will require the Legislature to adjourn within 160 days of convening in 2011 (not including time related to an organizational session) and provides that the Legislature will meet in 2012 in a session not to exceed 35 days.
Additionally, for the first time in Oregon's history, the House will be evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The Senate managed a 15-15 split in 2003, and for a brief time it looked as if the Senate would also be evenly divided, but late returns in Southern Oregon's Senate District 3 seem to have given the incumbent Democratic senator a victory, allowing Democrats to maintain control.
What's certain is that Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate evaporated Tuesday. That means Democrats cannot unilaterally approve a tax increase without Republican support.
What is not as certain is how the House and Senate will organize. Leadership changes in the House are nearly certain. Members of both parties are jockeying for position, attempting to create a working majority and achieve leadership roles, including House Speaker. As with the Senate in 2003, House Democrats and Republicans will be required to broker a power-sharing arrangement encapsulating who has power over committee chairmanships, assignments, and leadership roles. It remains to be seen what challenges this equal partisan divide will present to a Legislative Assembly that has now also constitutionally locked itself into meeting within strict timelines.
Overall, Democrats and Republicans in Oregon experienced mixed results. The Red Wave that washed over most of the country did not reach Oregon's U.S. Senate or Congressional races. Republicans were not able to oust a single Democrat at the federal level. They did, however, gain a combined eight seats in the Oregon House and Senate, while the Democrats were not able to gain a single seat.
Several key races in 2010 delivered the evenly divided Oregon House and 16-14 split in the Senate. The following races are the six Oregon House seats and two Oregon Senate seats picked up (or projected to be) by Republicans.
House District 52 (Hood River) Representative-Elect Mark Johnson defeated incumbent Suzanne VanOrman by more than 3,000 votes or 13 percentage points.
House District 54 (Bend) Representative-Elect Jason Conger defeated incumbent Judy Stiegler by nearly 4000 votes for an 11 percent margin of victory.
House District 51 (Clackamas County) This open seat was vacated by Representative Brent Barton who was defeated in his effort to retain retiring Senator Rick Metsger's Senate seat in Senate District 26. Republican Patrick Sheehan cruised to a 2,000-vote 10-point victory over Democrat Cheryl Meyers.
House District 30 (Hillsboro/Washington County) Republican Shawn Lindsay defeated Democrat Doug Ainge by more than 1,000 votes for a six-point margin of victory in this seat left open by the retirement of Representative David Edwards (D).
House District 29 (Aloha/Washington County) Katie Eyre Brewer defeated Katie Riley in a battle to replace Riley's husband Chuck Riley who lost his bid to unseat Senator Bruce Starr in District 15. Eyre Brewer notched a six-point victory in this so called "Battle of the Katies."
House District 49 (East Multnomah County) In a bit of an election-day surprise, Representative-Elect Matt Wand overcame a substantial Democratic registration advantage to defeat incumbent Nick Kahl by more than 900 votes or 6 percent.
House District 37 (West Linn/Lake Oswego) In the closest House race of the evening, Representative-Elect Julie Parrish held the seat vacated by Scott Bruun, who lost his bid for election to the U.S. Congress, by defeating Will Rasmussen by slightly more than 500 votes or 2 percent.
Senate District 20 (Canby) Although no winner has been declared yet, it looks as if State Senator Martha Schrader could not extend her family's winning streak on election night. While her husband, Congressman Kurt Schrader, earned re-election in Oregon's 5th Congressional District, she narrowly lost her race to retain Kurt's former seat to which she was appointed in 2009. Senator-Elect Alan Olsen defeated Schrader by fewer than 300 votes, less than one percentage point.
As ballots are still being counted in some places and at least two races are extremely close with no winner yet declared, it is possible we could experience a recount before all of this is history.