By Jim Ellis
Sept. 30, 2021 — Tuesday night, the state of Oregon became the first in the country to complete the redistricting process.
After Republicans decided not to break the quorum in the current legislative session because redistricting power in Oregon solely reverts to the Democratic Secretary of State if the legislature deadlocks, the Democratic House and Senate passed the new congressional, state Senate, and state House maps and sent them to Gov. Kate Brown (D). She immediately signed all three into law, thus the culmination of redistricting 2021 in the Beaver State.
The new congressional map features six seats for the first time, as Oregon was awarded a new district in reapportionment. The Democratic strategy was one of pushing the partisan envelope to the max, but the end result may force them to witness more competitive campaigns than they desire.
The final map looks to have two solid Democratic districts (1 & 3) and one safe Republican seat (2). The remaining three districts (4, 5 & 6) all lean Democratic to varying degrees. The Democrats’ idea is to create a 5D-1R map, but it’s possible in a good Republican year that the GOP gains two, and in a wave election could conceivably even add a third to their partisan column.
The 1st and 3rd Districts share the city of Portland, with CDs 5 and 6 coming into the metro area to annex some of the outer suburbs. The Portland area region is what gives those districts the Democrats the need to tip them further left.
The member in the most difficult situation is Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby). He won his 2020 re-election with only a 52-45 percent margin against a Republican opponent who spent just $221,000 on her campaign effort. More than half of Schrader’s current constituency is now in new District 6, and the partisan numbers in District 5 are slightly worse than they were in the previous version. Therefore, it is a virtual certainty that Rep. Schrader will draw significant Republican opposition in his new district.
An Oregon incumbent who needed an influx of Democrats is House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield). He defeated Republican Alek Skarlatos, 51-46 percent, after the GOP challenger raised and spent over $5.4 million. Of the three new potentially swing districts, the DeFazio 4th is now the strongest Democratic seat but still could play competitively in a wave Republican year.
Data research conducted by the staff at Dave’s Redistricting website and augmented through the Daily Kos Elections statistical analysis provides us with some early partisan details. The model races they use are from 2016 and 2018.
Below are the key population and partisan numbers for the new seats:
District 1: Suzanne Bonamici (D-Washington County): Carryover population from previous 1st CD is 82 percent, with 14 percent of the new population coming from Rep. Blumenauer’s 3rd CD, and four percent from Rep. Schrader’s 5th. The lowest Democratic statewide race number from those sampled is 59.7 percent. Safe Democratic.
District 2: Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario): Carryover population from previous 2nd CD is 93 percent, with seven percent of the new population coming from Rep. DeFazio’s 4th CD. The lowest Republican statewide race number is 45.9 percent, but that was actually a plurality GOP victory in Sen. Ron Wyden’s 2016 re-election campaign, which was a landslide Democratic result. Safe Republican.
District 3: Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland): Carryover population from previous 3rd CD is 96 percent, with three percent of the new population coming from Rep. Bentz’s 2nd, and one percent from Rep. Schrader’s 5th. The lowest Democratic statewide race number is 66.6 percent. Safe Democratic.
District 4: Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield): Carryover population from previous 4th CD is 91 percent, with nine percent of the new population coming from Rep. Schrader’s 5th. The lowest Democratic statewide race number is 48.5 percent, which was a plurality victory for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. Likely Democratic.
District 5: Kurt Schrader (D-Canby): Carryover population from the previous 5th CD is just 47 percent, with 25 percent of the new population coming from Rep. Bentz’s 2nd, 18 percent from Rep. DeFazio’s 4th, and 10 percent from Rep. Blumenauer’s 3rd. The new 5th even includes 30 people coming from Rep. Bonamici’s 1st.
The Salem-anchored seat will stretch as far as the Bend community area for the first time. The lowest Democratic statewide race number is 45.7 percent, which was a loss in the district for Kate Brown in the 2016 special election gubernatorial campaign. She also lost the district in 2018. The average Democratic percentage over the five tested statewide campaigns is just 48.6 percent. Lean Democratic at best.
District 6 (New Seat): A 40 percent total of the new 6th District’s population comes from Rep. Bonamici’s 1st CD, with 60 percent coming from Rep. Schrader’s 5th. The lowest Democratic statewide race number is 45.9 percent; Gov. Kate Brown would have lost this district in the 2016 special election. Lean Democratic.
As you can see from the statistics, Rep. Schrader’s district is the one dissected most to feed the new seat and others in close proximity. He now will have to run in a district where the majority of people have not yet voted for him. Oregon’s 5th District will certainly be one to watch in 2022.