Election News

Delaware and New Jersey Primaries: Overview and Live Results

July 7, 2020

July is a quiet month on the election calendar. Tuesday brings us the Delaware and New Jersey presidential primaries, rescheduled from April 28. There are also congressional primaries in New Jersey.  

Looking ahead, Louisiana and Puerto Rico1 1Democrats only have scheduled presidential primaries this weekend. That wraps up the presidential primary calendar, except for Connecticut (August 11).

Next Tuesday, July 14, there are congressional primaries in Maine and primary runoff elections in Alabama and Texas. 

14 states hold non-presidential primaries in August, with another four closing out the calendar in the first half of September.  

While you are waiting for the results, try out our new 2020 presidential election simulator.

Polls Close (Eastern Time)

Your individual polling place may have different hours. Do not rely on this schedule to determine when to vote. 

8:00 PM Delaware, New Jersey

 


Results by State

Delaware New Jersey

 

Delaware

President: There are 21 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

There's also a GOP primary.  

Delaware's downballot primaries are scheduled for September 15.

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New Jersey

President: There are 126 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary. 

On the Republican ballot, Donald Trump is unopposed.

Senate: Cory Booker has drawn a nominal primary challenge. He should have little trouble winning both that and another six-year term in November.

House: On the way to taking control of the House, Democrats flipped four seats here in the 2018 midterms.2 2Trailing only California, where Democrats gained seven seats. That temporarily left the delegation with just a single GOP representative, Mike Smith (NJ-4).  Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched parties in the wake of impeachment late last year, making the current count ten Democrats, 2 Republicans. There are several interesting races to watch, starting with Van Drew's 2nd district.  

District 2: The district covers South Jersey and is the largest by land area in the state. Van Drew was elected (as a Democrat) by 8%, flipping a district Donald Trump won by about 5%.  Although Van Drew has Trump's support, he has drawn a primary challenge from conservative Bob Patterson. It is worth noting that the last House Democrat to switch, Parker Griffith (AL-5) in 2009, lost the 2010 GOP primary and was unsuccessful in subsequent efforts to regain public office.

Van Drew's defection has created an opening on the Democratic side, with several vying for the nomination.  The general election is seen as competitive, with a consensus rating of Leans Republican.

District 3: This district stretches across the south-central part of the state, including both Philadelphia suburbs and coastal areas.  Another Democratic gain in 2018, Andy Kim won by just 1% over incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur. It was the closest House race in the state that year. Kim is unopposed for renomination. Two Republicans are looking to take him on in this district that Trump won by 6 points in 2016. One of them, David Richter, was originally going to run in District 2. He shifted to this race after Van Drew joined the GOP and earned Trump's support.

The general election is expected to be competitive with a consensus of Leans Democratic.

District 5: The Democratic primary in this far North Jersey district may be more interesting than the general election. In 2016, Democrat Josh Gottheimer ousted seven-term Republican Scott Garrett by 5 points; he won reelection in 2018 by about 14 points. A relatively conservative Democrat, Gottheimer has attracted a primary challenge from the left. That progressive challenger, Arati Kreibich, has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Gottheimer has a 10-1 fundraising advantage and is favored, but it is one to keep an eye on.

The general election is seen as Likely Democratic at this time.  

District 7:  Republicans have recruited a marquee name in an attempt to win back this district in the north-central portion of the state.  Assuming he wins Tuesday's primary, Senate minority leader Tom Kean, Jr. will meet incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski in November. Kean is the son of former Gov. Tom Kean, and part of a political family that goes back many generations.

Malinowski defeated Republican Leonard Lance by 5% here in 2018.  The general election consensus is Leans Democratic.

District 8: This oddly shaped, deep blue district runs along the Hudson River to points west including parts of Newark and Elizabeth. Albio Sires won his 8th term by a 60 point margin in 2018. This year, he's facing a primary challenge from progressive lawyer Hector Oseguera, whose campaign has picked up momentum in recent weeks.  As in District 5, the incumbent is favored, but the race bears watching. 

All New Jersey Results >>

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Unanimous Supreme Court Says States Can Punish or Replace Faithless Electors

July 6, 2020

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require Electoral College members to cast their vote for the candidate to whom they were pledged to support. The decision was unanimous

Recent court decisions, in cases arising out of the 2016 presidential election, had come to opposite conclusions about this issue. That year, Donald Trump won states (and a district in Maine) worth 306 electoral votes; Hillary Clinton won states with 232 electoral votes.  When the actual vote of Electors took place on December 19, ten electors attempted to cast votes for others.  Two of the Clinton electors (one each in Colorado and Minnesota) were replaced, a third (in Maine) ultimately changed their vote to Clinton. 

Ultimately, seven faithless electoral votes were recorded, a historically high number. Four were in Washington, two in Texas and one in Hawaii. History recorded a 304-227 Electoral College win for Donald Trump.

In our opinion, this is a welcome decision. The presidential election process in this country is contentious enough. In modern times, acting as an elector is essentially an honorary role and the actual vote of electors is largely symbolic. That being the case, there's no good reason for an individual elector to place his or her judgment in front of the decision the people of that state made on Election Day.  While these faithless electors have been a harmless diversion through American history, imagine the chaos that would ensue in a close - or even tied - election where one or more electors vote in a way that changed the outcome.  

For those unfamiliar with the process, each party on the ballot in a state names its own slate of electors - mostly party loyalists. After the election, the state appoints the slate of electors associated with the candidate that wins the popular vote to cast the actual votes in the Electoral College. Each voting elector casts one vote for president, one for vice-president. The voting electors then sign a Certificate of Vote enumerating that vote. A corresponding document, the Certificate of Ascertainment, is created by the state, listing the slates of electors and (usually) the popular vote associated with each candidate/party. View the 2016 documents here

The Road to 270: South Carolina

July 6, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @SenhorRaposa.

In many ways, South Carolina is the state that’s most shaped the trajectory of the Democratic primary this year. After struggling in three earlier states, Joe Biden -- from his strength with Black voters and after a critical endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn -- routed his opponents in the state. Biden’s win in the Palmetto State set him up for a strong performance on Super Tuesday, and gave him momentum for contests beyond that.

Although South Carolina won’t be as critical in the general election, it’s seen some realigning political trends that may carry on in 2020.

The South Carolina Primary

Every four years, South Carolina is a major battleground in the race for both parties presidential nominations. On the Republican side, South Carolina is the first state home to a significant evangelical population. Evangelical whites are a prominent constituency in the Republican Party and appealing to them is necessary in order to win the nomination. On the Democratic side, South Carolina is the first state with a majority Black electorate. The first two states in the nominating process, Iowa and New Hampshire, are overwhelmingly white, though Nevada, with its large Hispanic population, also holds an early caucus. 

South Carolina's history as an early primary state in the primaries is relatively recent. Its status as a pre-Super Tuesday contest begins with the 2000 Republican primary. In 2000, the South Carolina primary occurred in February after Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Delaware. South Carolina in 2000 was a particularly acrimonious fight between then Texas Governor George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain. Fresh off a win in the New Hampshire primary, McCain was looking for momentum in the Palmetto State. McCain was on the receiving end of a vicious smear campaign towards his wife and their adopted daughter. Bush ultimately won the primary 53-42% and went on to steamroll McCain in most of the remaining contests. McCain's brand of conservatism was a poor fit for the primary electorate of the time.

In 2004, South Carolina again held its primary in February but not as a standalone contest. It was on held what was dubbed 'Mini Tuesday', with a number of other states. North Carolina Senator John Edwards carried the state fairly easily against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. A homespun southerner, Edwards charmed South Carolina voters.

2008 is the first cycle where the current early state schedule began. The modern order of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina was first used that year. With significant support among Black voters and two candidates dividing up the white vote, Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary in a landslide.

On the Republican side that year, John McCain won the Palmetto state by just 3%, with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee finishing a close second. Four years later, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich romped to victory in the state with 40% of the vote and captured 23/25 delegates in the state. In 2016, Donald Trump was fresh off a victory in New Hampshire and swept the state, taking all 50 delegates with him.

On the Democratic side, both 2016 and 2020 were landslide wins for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. With their strong support among Black voters, both candidates won every county in the state. If you want to be the Democratic nominee, competing in South Carolina is a must. There is no path to the Democratic nomination without the support of Black voters.

Congressional Politics

As a southern state with a racially polarized electorate, South Carolina has seen few competitive congressional elections over the last decade. The most recent case, though, was in 2018. Rep Mark Sanford (R) -- who was at times critical of President Trump -- lost renomination in South Carolina's 1st District to fellow Republican Katie Arrington. Democrats nominated ocean engineer Joe Cunningham, who flipped the seat later that year. After Georgia Rep. John Barrow’s 2014 loss, Cunningham became the first white Democrat elected to the House from a Deep South state.

Based in Charleston, the 1st District is a predominately suburban, traditionally Republican district that has trended leftward in the Trump era. The President carried it by 13% in 2016, down from Mitt Romney’s 18-point win four years earlier. Cunningham’s opponent is State Rep. Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of South Carolina’s Citadel, the famous military academy. Political forecasters like Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report rate the race as a tossup and one of the most vulnerable Democratic held seats. Given the suburban nature of the seat, it seems likely Trump’s margin will decrease this year and Cunningham could certainly win reelection.

South Carolina’s congressional delegation also includes two of the most prominent Republican Senators. Representing South Carolina in the Senate since 2003, Lindsey Graham came to fame during his time in the House. In the late 1990s, he served as an impeachment manager during the trial of President Clinton. Regarded as a mainline conservative with his hawkish foreign policy and pro-immigration stances, Graham has long been viewed with suspicion by his party’s right flank; Graham was especially known for his long friendship with the late John McCain. As two of the most prominent proponents of a hawkish U.S. foreign policy, Graham and McCain sometimes differed on domestic policy -- in one of McCain’s last votes in the Senate, he sunk the GOP’s repeal effort of President Obama’s healthcare law, but Graham supported repeal.

In 2016, Graham briefly ran for President but found little success in a party that is now more skeptical of interventionism and immigration. In the primaries, Graham was a staunch critic of then-candidate Donald Trump, but with Trump’s election and Graham’s own primary coming up, he quickly changed his tune. His speech defending now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation hearings went viral. His abrupt and fierce embrace of the President turned heads but the reality is Graham represents a state where Trump is very popular, especially with Republican partisans. Graham’s right turn paid off, as he was renominated last month.

Graham must still run in the general election later this year and, despite the red tint of the state, his political transformation has turned him into a Democratic target. Political forecasters such as Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate his race as ‘Likely Republican.’ The Democratic nominee is former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison. Harrison has been an extraordinary fundraiser, but this race is an uphill battle for him. An upset can’t be completely ruled out, especially if Joe Biden’s strong national numbers persist, but Graham has the clear advantage. Harrison is South Carolina Democrats’ best Senate candidate in many years, and could be a plausible successor to Democratic House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn when he eventually retires.

The Palmetto State’s junior Senator in Tim Scott. Appointed by then Governor Nikki Haley following the resignation of Senator Jim DeMint (R), Scott is the lone Black Republican in the Senate. As just one of two African American Republicans in Congress, Scott occupies a unique spot in his party. In a party heavily dominated by older white men, the burden often falls on Scott to explain racial issues to his fellow Republicans. Of the two Senators, Scott is the more conservative, though not to the extent of his predecessor. Prior to his appointment to the Senate, Scott represented South Carolina’s 1st District in the House. He was elected to that seat in 2010, when longtime Rep. Henry Brown (R) retired.

For decades, South Carolina was represented by two legendary Senators: iconic Democrat Fritz Hollings and the archconservative Republican Strom Thurmond. The two men had relatively similar political beginnings. In 1958, Hollings was elected Governor of South Carolina. Like most South Carolinians at time, Hollings opposed integration of public schools. By the end of his tenure as Governor, Hollings like many Americans, reversed himself on the issue. By the early 1960s, public support for civil rights was growing. The Civil Rights movement was in full swing, slowly inching towards the passage of a Civil Rights bill by Congress.

Strom Thurmond was elected Governor of South Carolina in 1946. With the Democratic Party adopting a civil rights plank of the platform in 1948, Thurmond broke with the party and formed an offshoot dubbed the ‘Dixiecrats.’ Thurmond ran under the Dixiecrat banner that year on a pro-segregation platform, ultimately carrying four southern states (including his home state) and 39 electoral votes. In 1954, Sen. Burnet Maybank died while seeking reelection unopposed. The state Democratic Party rushed to choose a replacement nominee but this move displeased activists and prompted Thurmond to run a successful write-in campaign for the seat. Two years later, Thurmond resigned so as to honor activists desire for a proper primary. He won the seat back that year and would go on to be reelected seven more times.

During his early time in the Senate, Thurmond was one of the most outspoken supporters of segregation, though he eventually tried to build bridges with the Black community in his state -- by the 1970s, he was hiring Black staffers. In 1964, Thurmond announced he was switching parties and supporting Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s campaign for President. South Carolina was one of the few states Goldwater carried that year despite his sweeping loss nationwide.

State level politics

Republicans dominate South Carolina at the state level, holding all state executive offices. Gov. Henry McMaster has been a fixture in South Carolina politics, dating back to his time as a legislative assistant for Sen. Thurmond. McMaster served as a U.S. Attorney for South Carolina under President Reagan in the 1980s, before making an unsuccessful Senate bid in 1986 against Hollings. From 1993-2002, McMaster served as Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party until he was elected Attorney General in 2002. McMaster was the last separately elected Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, elected in 2014. He became Governor upon the resignation of Nikki Haley to become UN Ambassador under President Trump.

In the legislature, Republicans lack supermajorities but are hoping to gain them this year. Democrats hold a number of rural seats that haven’t voted Democratic for President in some time. The Democratic nominee for Governor in 2010 and 2014, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, represents a district that voted for President Trump by double-digits and for 2020, drew a Republican opponent for the first time in many years. The low pay and part time nature of the South Carolina legislature means many seats go uncontested every cycle. Rural Democrats such as State Rep. Mandy Powers-Norrell have gone uncontested multiple cycles in a row but are now facing Republican opponents. It seems likely Republicans can finally capture supermajorities this cycle.

Redistricting should be largely uneventful though Republicans will want to shore up the 1st Congressional District, so expect a decent number of majority Black precincts to be shifted into the 6th District.

Presidential politics and 2020 outlook

South Carolina Polls >>

Like every other state, the broader national trends have been seen in South Carolina. Despite its suburban nature though, the Greenville-Spartanburg area has long been a reliable source of votes for Republicans in the state. Charleston County was reliably Republican until 2008 but has voted Democratic since. Democrats receive most of their votes from the Black Belt but Clinton couldn’t garner the enthusiasm President Obama had with Black voters -- and she lost support among rural whites as well. South Carolina is inelastically red and Democrats have been stuck between 41 and 45% of the vote in the past five presidential elections. Still, given Joe Biden’s strength with Black voters and college educated whites, it seems quite likely he’ll at least narrow the margin from Clinton’s 14 point loss in 2016.

Editor's Note

South Carolina is the 34th report (33 states + DC) in The Road to 270 series. The remaining 17 states were all decided by a single-digit margin in the 2016 presidential election.  As this year's most competitive states may differ from those in 2016, we wanted to have an objective way to get from here to the final report on November 2.

Going forward, we will use the recently launched 2020 presidential election simulator to determine the following week's state. Specifically, we will look at the 'Battleground 270' results of 25,000 simulations run late Sunday afternoon.  The next state to be covered will be the least competitive state - as of that date - of those remaining. You can see the state-by-state breakdown in the table at the bottom of the Battleground 270 page.

Based on yesterday's simulations...

Next Week: New Mexico

Reports in this series:

Rep. Scott Tipton Ousted in CO-3 GOP Primary

June 30, 2020

In a major upset, five-term incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton was defeated by restaurateur Lauren Boebert in the GOP primary for Colorado's 3rd congressional district.

Boebert will meet Democrat Diane Bush in November. Bush was the party's nominee in 2018, losing to Tipton by about 8%. While Boebert will start the race as the favorite in this GOP-leaning district on the state's Western Slope, her positions may create an opening for Democrats. Sabato's Crystal Ball changed its rating of the race from Likely to Leans Republican after Boebert became the nominee.

Tipton becomes the fifth House incumbent to lose this year, joining Republicans Steve King (IA-4) and Denver Riggleman (VA-5). Democrats Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Eliot Engel (NY-16) have also lost.

Overview and Live Results for June 30 Primaries in Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah

June 30, 2020

Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah hold downballot primaries Tuesday.  There are a handful of interesting races including the GOP gubernatorial primary in Utah and the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado. For the House, we'll be watching the Republican primaries in OK-4 and UT-4.

Polls Close (Eastern Time)

Your individual polling place may have different hours. Do not rely on this schedule to determine when to vote. 

8:00 PM Oklahoma
9:00 PM Colorado
10:00 PM Utah

 


Democratic Delegate Count

All three states on the calendar Tuesday held their presidential primaries in March. The table below shows last week's available delegates (274 from New York + 54 from Kentucky) as many of those have not yet been allocated as ballots continue to be counted. Total delegates are displayed as well.

Joe Biden long ago became the presumptive nominee. However, once he reaches 2,375 delegates, he will have a majority of the projected 4,749 total Democratic delegate votes. By crossing this threshold, all delegates (pledged and super/automatic) will be able to participate in the roll call that nominates the former vice president.


 

Results by State

Colorado Oklahoma Utah

 

Colorado

Senate: After a brief run at the presidential nomination, former Gov. John Hickenlooper jumped into the race to try and defeat first-term Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.  Before he can take on Gardner, Hickenlooper must win the Democratic primary against Andrew Romanoff, former Speaker of the state House of Representatives. Hickenlooper had a large lead in the most recent third-party poll and has led Gardner by double-digits in limited - and outdated - general election polling.

However, Hickenlooper has stumbled recently, opening himself up to attacks from both Romanoff and Gardner. Assuming Hickenlooper advances, the general election may be tougher than expected for a seat the party will likely need to retake control of the Senate.

House: While the state has 7 congressional districts, the only contested primaries are in District 3, in the western part of the state. We are likely to see a rematch of 2018, when Republican Scott Tipton won a 5th term, defeating Democrat Diane Bush by about 8%.

All Colorado Results >>

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Oklahoma

In any of these primaries, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the top two will meet in an August 25 runoff.  

Senate: At age 85, Republican Sen. James Inhofe is seeking a 6th term. His likely opponent will be Democrat Abby Broyles, a former news anchor.  Already a long-shot in this deep red state, Broyle's task will be even harder in a presidential election year.

House: In one of the bigger surprises of the 2018 midterms, Democrat Kendra Horn ousted incumbent Republican Steve Russell by about 1.5%, winning the Oklahoma City-area 5th district. Horn has drawn a nominal primary challenge.

A large field of Republicans is looking for a shot to win the seat back in November. State Sen. Stephanie Bice or businesswoman Terry Neese is likely to finish first. However, there are several credible candidates, making it likely that an August 25 runoff will be necessary.

The other four districts are safely Republican in November.

All Oklahoma Results >>

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Utah

As a result of a new law, there will be no results released before midnight Eastern Time.

Governor: Utah has had a Republican governor since 1985 and that is unlikely to change with the 2020 election. Tuesday's primary will tell us who that person is going to be.  Gov. Gary Herbert chose not to run for a 3rd term, and endorsed Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who served from 2005-2009, is attempting to win back the office.  Cox and Huntsman have been statistically tied at around 30% each in the polls, including this most recent one.  Former House Speaker Greg Hughes has seen double-digit support, and is likely to finish third. 

House: Three of Utah's four seats are solidly Republican. Rob Bishop (UT-1) is retiring from one of those after nine terms; there is a four-way GOP primary to succeed him. In the Salt Lake City-area 4th district, Democrat Ben McAdams flipped the district when he defeated incumbent Republican Mia Love by about 0.25%. Retaking the district is high on the GOP list for November. Love declined to run again; four Republicans are vying for the nomination.

All Utah Results >>

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Amy McGrath Wins Kentucky Democratic Senate Primary

June 30, 2020

Updating an earlier story, Amy McGrath has won Kentucky's Democratic primary.

All Kentucky Results >>

Final Results in Kentucky Democratic Senate Primary Expected Today

June 30, 2020

Tuesday should bring a resolution to the highly competitive Democratic primary for Senate in Kentucky. Results from the state's two largest counties, Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington) will be released, along with any remaining absentee ballots, which had to be postmarked by June 23 (primary day) and received no later than June 27 to be counted. Complete election results are expected shortly after 6:00 PM ET.

Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot, had long been the frontrunner in this race. However, Charles Booker, a state representative made a late run, staking out more progressive policy positions. The debate over racial injustice has also shaken up this primary: Breonna Taylor was killed by police in Louisville earlier this year. Booker, 35, is the youngest black lawmaker in the Kentucky House.

The pandemic caused the primary to be rescheduled from May 19, and turned it into a largely mail-in contest.  While the delay helped Booker in that his campaign only caught fire in the closing weeks, the mail-in component likely helped McGrath as many cast their ballots earlier in the process.

The winner of the primary will have an uphill battle against GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is seeking his 7th term.

There are a few U.S. House primaries that remain uncalled; those should be resolved today as well.

All Kentucky Results >>

The Road to 270: Oregon

June 29, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @SenhorRaposa.

In Oregon, a land of contrasts, traditional conflicts that have shaped the state are still alive and well. The Pacific Northwest is known for its environmentalism -- yet it was also once home to a vibrant logging industry. The state’s most populous city, Portland, is very liberal, but you don’t have to travel far before the state’s electorate takes on a working class attitude. Indeed, urban liberals and blue collar logging communities have very different interests that pit them against one another.

The Cascade Range divides the state east-west; the largely rural east is home to deeply conservative farmers and ranchers. With something of a libertarian streak, eastern Oregonians tend to be anti-government and often have a great of deal of frustration with the state's liberal government in Salem. Despite its reliable Democratic lean in presidential elections, its varying communities of interest characterize the state’s local politics.

Statehood and the history of Oregon

Oregon had been settled by indigenous Americans for thousands of years by the time Europeans arrived in the 16th Century. To understand how Oregon got to where it is, you have to go back to the beginning and look at its settlement. Following the explorations of Lewis and Clark at the dawn of the 19th century, pioneers and fur trappers, from both the United States and Britain, began to settle in Oregon.

Prior to admission to the Union in 1859, the Oregon Territory banned slavery in 1844. Still, Oregon was not friendly to freed slaves -- it had a number of Black exclusion laws on the books.  The state has seen several population booms over the years, such as the gold rush period and with the advancement in railroad technology in the 1880s. These periodic population booms brought competing groups to the state and led to the polarization so prominent in the 21st century.

Congressional Politics

In many ways, Oregon's politics were a lot like those in New England. From the late 1960s until the early 1990s, the state’s U.S. Senate delegation consisted of two liberal Republicans: Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood. Hatfield was an especially interesting fellow. Though a more conventional Republican on domestic issues, he was a deeply religious man (he opposed abortion rights) but was never comfortable joining forces with the social conservatives in the party. On foreign policy, Hatfield held some views that put him at odds with his party. He was a critic of the U.S. government's Middle Eastern policy, especially in regard to Israel. He was known as a dove on foreign policy -- having served in World War II, he was one of the few Americans to see Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath of its bombing. As a result, Hatfield became a staunch advocate for nuclear disarmament and consistently opposed every defense authorization bill. An early critic of the war in Vietnam, he strongly pushed for government aide for Vietnam refugees. 

Serving as Oregon's junior Senator for that time was Bob Packwood, who eventually chaired the Senate Finance Committee -- he was the Republican point man on taxes during the Reagan era. Although a free trader, Packwood was a staunch advocate for his state's timber industry. Around the time of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, Packwood became an outspoken opponent of restrictions on abortion rights. As with Hatfield, he was at odds with the increasingly influential social conservatives in his party.  

In 1992, Packwood's career came to an abrupt end with shocking accusations of sexual harassment. With some accusations going back to the 1960s, Packwood faced a firestorm over his alleged behavior. This matter was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, which ultimately voted unanimously to expel him from the Senate in 1995. Instead, Packwood announced his resignation on the Senate floor after that vote. A special election was held in January 1996 and Rep. Ron Wyden (D) defeated Oregon State Senate President Gordon Smith (R) by 1.5%. Later that year, Smith would rebound and get elected to the state's other Senate seat.

Before his elevation to the Senate, Wyden served in the House. He was first elected to the House in 1980, and is now the Dean of Oregon's Congressional Delegation. In the Senate he has earned a reputation as a libertarian Democrat, known for his strong opposition to the surveillance state created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Wyden has proven to have significant crossover appeal: in his most recent election, he carried all five congressional districts -- including the Republican-held 2nd District in the east. As Trump carried the 2nd District by 20% in 2016, Wyden won it by five points. He has faced some controversy over the years for his lack of real residency in the state but he is omnipresent in the Beaver State, holding town halls in each county every year. It seems likely that Wyden's accessibility helps him to connect with voters who would ordinarily favor Republicans -- but they support him because he shows up and listens.

Oregon's junior Senator is Democrat Jeff Merkley. A mainstream progressive, Merkley was narrowly elected to the Senate in 2008, where he unseated then-Sen. Smith amidst the national Democratic wave. A former State House Speaker, Merkley does not enjoy the level of crossover appeal Wyden does, but he still represents this blue state quite well. Originally seen as a risky candidate in 2008, Merkley has become well-entrenched: he was easily reelected in 2014 and should have no problems this year, especially given that his opponent is a prominent supporter of the 'QAnon' conspiracy theory.

Oregon is divided up into five Congressional Districts. The 1st District, represented by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici since 2012, encompasses the northwestern portion of the state including places like Astoria and the western Portland suburbs.

The lone Republican-held district is the 2nd District. Represented by Greg Walden since 1997, this district includes all of eastern Oregon. Hailing from exurban Hood River, Greg Walden is a very interesting figure. For one, he is certainly more moderate than his district's partisanship would suggest. Walden has generally enjoyed significant crossover appeal, running far ahead of the top of the ticket over the years. In 2018, Walden faced the closest race of his career; after routinely winning 70% or more of the vote, he fell to 56%.

Walden announced his retirement in 2019, which set off a crowded field of candidates vying to succeed him. The primary included 2018 gubernatorial nominee Knute Buehler, a former State Representative from suburban Deschutes County. Perhaps wisely, Buehler ran to the center in 2018 as a statewide candidate, but had to lean right this year given the district’s more conservative electorate. Buehler found little support outside booming Deschutes County and finished second in the primary to State Senator Cliff Bentz. After representing rural eastern Oregon in the legislature for years, Bentz enjoyed an advantage that none of the other candidates did. Given the Republican lean of the district, Bentz is almost certainly headed to Congress next year.

Much of urban Portland is in the state's 3rd District. Represented by Democrat Earl Blumenauer since 1996, this district has seen its fair share of demographic and cultural changes over the years. The avuncular bicycle-riding Blumenauer is highly popular and easily beat a DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) backed candidate in the primary this year.

In the 5th District, which includes the southern suburbs of Portland, Blue Dog Rep. Kurt Schrader also beat back a more left-wing challenger this year. A point of trivia that political junkies will mention is that since OR-5 was created, for the 1982 cycle, all of its occupants (including Schrader), have gotten divorced while in office. Although the district only went for Hillary Clinton by 4% in 2016, Republicans have not seriously targeted Schrader and he is a safe bet for reelection.

The only district that could plausibly be competitive is the 4th District. Although Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections both rate the race as 'Safe Democratic,' the Cook Political Report rates it as 'Likely Democratic'. OR-4 includes the state's two major college towns, Eugene and Corvallis, which are home to the University of Oregon and Oregon State, respectively. A populist progressive, Rep. Peter DeFazio has represented this district since 1987 and maintains broad appeal with both progressives and the working class voters. OR-4 almost backed President Trump in 2016, as Hillary Clinton won this district by fewer than 600 votes -- but that Trump took the same 45% that Mitt Romney got there in 2012 suggests the tight margin may have had more to do with Clinton or the third party share.

From 2010 to 2018, DeFazio faced perennial candidate Art Robinson. This year, Robinson is running for the State Senate and the Republican OR-4 nominee is veteran Alek Skarlatos. Although a credible candidate on paper, Skarlatos has fundraised poorly and has received no outside help. With Democrats maintaining a consistent eight-point lead on the generic congressional ballot and President Trump's low approval ratings, this isn't likely to be a Republican target. Now Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, DeFazio can deliver for his constituents and that is likely to resonate with voters in this industry-heavy district.

Ancestrally Democratic Coos County has taken a turn to the right in recent years. Sen. Merkley is the last Democrat to win the county, in 2014. Neither Sen. Wyden nor Rep. DeFazio have been able to flip it back. These heavily white working class communities were trending Republican prior to Trump but even more so in the Trump era. Compared to the state as a whole, Coos is 90% white and only 18% of the population aged 25 and over have a bachelor's degree.

State level politics

Though Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982 -- after next-door Washington state, this is the GOP’s longest such losing streak -- it is not overwhelmingly blue at the state level. In fact, 1998 is the most recent election in which a gubernatorial race was decided by double-digits. It's hard for Democrats to get beyond that 15-20 point range of victory. With a Democratic trifecta, redistricting after 2020 will be more consequential than previous decades -- Oregon is expected to gain a district after the Census, getting its first new seat since 1982. Where the new seat will land, and what its partisanship will be, is a subject of much discussion. At the very least, Democrats will work to shore up DeFazio by probably pushing fast growing Deschutes County into his district.

Like many Democrats in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has been a polarizing figure. Before she served as Governor, Brown was Oregon’s Secretary of State -- upon the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), she assumed the office in 2015. Brown is the second female Governor of Oregon and in 2016 became the first openly LGBT governor elected in her own right. Brown is term limited in 2022 and has often been mentioned as a potential successor to Sen. Wyden, should he retire that year.

Republicans have not had much success in recent years at the state level, but they struck gold with Dennis Richardson in 2016. A longtime state legislator, Richardson was well regarded by his Democratic colleagues. Although a conservative Republican, he became Secretary of State, defeating Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian by 4% in 2016. Richardson sadly died of brain cancer in February, 2019. Although his appointed successor, Bev Clarno (R) is not running for a full term this fall, Republicans will try to retain their sole statewide office.

Presidential outlook

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Oregon had some traits of a swing state. As with the national popular vote, although Bill Clinton won there twice, he never took a majority. The state's friendliness towards third parties resulted in Ross Perot receiving 24% of the vote in 1992 and 9% in 1996. Green Party nominee Ralph Nader received 5% of the vote in 2000 -- the state stayed blue, but Nader limited Al Gore to a 47% plurality. In 2008, Barack Obama carried the state by 16 points, which is the highwater mark for Democrats in recent years. Hillary Clinton carried the state with a narrow majority of the vote in 2016 but Trump finished with 39% of the vote, down from Mitt Romney's 42% four years earlier.

2016 saw a substantial third party vote in the Beaver State, as they accounted for nearly 11% of the vote. With Sabato’s Crystal Ball predicting a largely two-party election in the fall, it seems an open question as to how that third party vote will break. Either way, Joe Biden should have no trouble carrying Oregon and it will be interesting to see which Obama/Trump counties he can flip back. Although the Trump campaign made some noise about contesting Oregon, there's no prospect that the state is in play this year.

Next Week: South Carolina

Reports in this series:

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York Defeated in Primary; 4th House Incumbent to Lose this Year

June 24, 2020

Rep. Eliot Engel has lost his primary to progressive political newcomer Jamaal Bowman.  As of about 1:30 PM Wednesday afternoon, Bowman held a 62% to 35% advantage over the 16-term incumbent. 

Our election results partner, Decision Desk HQ, noted that Bowman took an unexpectedly large lead in the early and Election Day voting and is ahead in the portion of both counties (Bronx and Westchester) that make up the district. While absentee ballots remain to be counted, the margin Engel would need is such that the call for Bowman can be made.

This article from Forbes details some of the missteps Engel's campaign made along the way.  

This is a deep blue district: Engel was unopposed in 2018 and no Republicans filed to run this year. While there may be one or more 3rd party nominees on the ballot, Bowman is all but certain to be the next member of Congress from the district.

Engel becomes the fourth member of the House to lose a primary this year. As Dave Wasserman notes, that is right around the average for recent cycles.

GOP Holds NY-27 as Chris Jacobs Wins Special Election

June 24, 2020

Republican State Sen. Chris Jacobs won the special election in New York's 27th congressional district Tuesday. The seat has been vacant since last October, when former Rep. Chris Collins resigned, pleading guilty to insider trading charges that same day.

Under indictment at the time of the 2018 midterms, Collins won reelection by less than 0.5% over Democrat Nate McMurray, who was again the party's nominee Tuesday. The special election outcome, with Jacobs up by nearly 40% at the time of this writing, more closely reflects the conservative lean of the district. Donald Trump won here by 25% in 2016.

Jacobs also prevailed in the regularly scheduled Republican primary Tuesday, setting up a rematch in November. McMurray had no Democratic opposition and will get a third opportunity to try and win the seat. 

After Jacobs is seated, Democrats will hold a 233 to 198 advantage over in the U.S. House. An additional seat is held by a Libertarian. Three previously GOP-held seats remain vacant: CA-50, NC-11, TX-4. No special elections are scheduled for any of them.