|Oregon Political Profile|
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has a reputation as being an independent and laid-back state, but one that's also known for political innovations and trend-setting. Oregonians focus on environmental issues, including salmon preservation, logging and land-use planning, which is a long-term hot topic because the federal government manages more than 70 percent of the land in Oregon. One of the fastest growing states in the union, Oregon saw a 16 percent population increase between 1990 and 1999. The 2000 Census put the state's population at 3,300,800.
Oregon has been among the first to pass laws and citizen initiatives on a number of controversial topics. The state produced one of the first bottle-deposit laws, decriminalized marijuana, legalized abortions before Roe vs. Wade, backed limits on development and the use of property, and banned semi-automatic weapons. More recently, Governor John Kitzhaber developed the Oregon Health Plan, which rations medical care to Medicaid recipients in order to cover more low-income residents. In 1994 and again in 1997, voters approved measures legalizing physician-assisted suicide and, this year, the state will decide whether to require labels on genetically engineered foods.
Historically, Oregon has leaned toward the conservative side of the political spectrum; at one time, it was the most Republican state in the West. But, in the last century, it has taken a turn toward the Democratic party, especially in Multnomah and Washington counties and the university towns of Eugene and Corvallis. In presidential elections Democrats have fared well. In 2000 the state voted for former Vice President Al Gore and in 1992 and 1996 for former President Bill Clinton. Ralph Nader has also tapped into the state's independent streak. He drew four percent of Oregon voters in the 1996 presidential election, and seven percent in 2000.
The eastern counties of Oregon remain strongholds for Republicans, and play a key role in the state's politics. Between 1992 and 1996, voter turnout in Portland fell sharply, as well as in university towns, while rising in areas east of the Cascades, which include the cities of Pendleton, Bend and Baker City. The state's first congressional district includes Clatsop, Columbia, Washington, Yamhill, and parts of Multnomah and Clackamas counties. This district is represented by Democrat, David Wu, who was elected to Congress in 1998 and re-elected in 2000.
The second congressional district covers all counties east of the Cascades, and all of Jackson and most of Josephine counties. This district leans increasingly Republican. Many residents express frustration with federal land management policies. This attitude flared with the controversy surrounding the spotted owl when a federal judge banned logging in old growth areas to protect the owl. This district relied heavily on the timber industry and it still plays a significant political role. Republican Greg Walden, a radio station owner from Hood River, is in his second term representing the district.
The third congressional district includes most of Multnomah county and the northern part of Clackamas county. This is Oregon's most liberal district, represented by Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, first elected to Congress in 1996.
The fourth congressional district includes Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, Linn, Josephine, and Benton counties. This diverse district includes Eugene and Corvallis, university towns which are heavily Democratic, and Roseburg and Albany, cities with timber-based economies that lean Republican. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat and the senior member of Oregon's congressional delegation, was first elected to Congress here in 1986.
The fifth congressional district includes Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties, as well as portions of Benton and Clackamas counties. It has been historically Republican, though, now trends Democratic. It is Oregon's most marginal district. Democrat Darlene Hooley, a former county commissioner, was first elected to Congress from this district in 1996.
2002 is an important year for Oregon politics, as Republican Senator Gordon Smith is up for reelection against Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Ted Kulongoski (D) and lawyer and former state legislator Kevin Mannix (R) vie to become the state's next Governor.
--From Oregon Public Broadcasting