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Stories about Oregon

In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.



Filing deadline passes to run for school board in Oregon

On March 18, 2021, the filing deadline passed to run for school board in eight school districts in Oregon. Candidates filed to run in the following districts:

  • Beaverton School District
  • Centennial School District 28J
  • David Douglas School District
  • Parkrose School District 3
  • Portland Public Schools
  • Reynolds School District 7
  • Salem-Keizer Public Schools
  • Scappoose School District 1J

The general election is scheduled for May 18, 2021. There is no primary. School board elections in these districts are nonpartisan.

These eight districts served a total of 165,126 students during the 2016-2017 school year.

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Arizona is 7th state to order in-person school instruction, others schedule openings

On March 15, Arizona became the seventh state to require at least part-time instruction for certain grade levels. Oregon will join the list in two weeks, and Washington will join in three.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R-Ariz.) March 3 executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction took effect March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties are exempt from the order. Parents can still keep their children in virtual classes.

On March 12, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The order also requires public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also said on March 12 he will soon issue an emergency proclamation requiring elementary schools to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5. Schools must provide older students the same by April 19. As of March 15, Inslee had not signed the proclamation.  

All three states had previously left reopening decisions to school districts.

Nationwide:

  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction
  • Two states (Ariz., W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
  • Thirty-nine states left decisions to schools or districts


Diego Hernandez resigns from Oregon House of Representatives 

On Feb. 21, Rep. Diego Hernandez (D) resigned from the Oregon House of Representatives. He represented District 47 from 2017 to 2021. 

On May 4, 2020, the interim House Conduct Committee in the Oregon House of Representatives opened an investigation after seven individuals accused Hernandez of verbal and physical sexual harassment and creating a hostile workplace environment.

Hernandez did not participate in the investigatory hearing and issued the following statement in response: “I have no idea what the concerns raised are or by whom. I do know that there has been an organized campaign against me recently to get me out of the office I was duly elected to and I was threatened this would happen if I didn’t resign. Due process matters, I ask that people withhold judgment until the investigation is complete.”

On May 11, Hernandez filed a tort claim against the Oregon state legislature, citing damages related to the following: “abuse of process, discrimination (gender and national origin/race) under state and federal law, aiding and abetting discrimination, bullying/mobbing, whistleblowing retaliation (ORS 659A.199, ORS 659A.203, ORS659A.206), intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with a prospective economic relationship, defamation, violation of due process under state and federal law, and other potential claims.” 

After nine months, the committee voted 4-0 to recommend expulsion to the House. Hernandez filed a lawsuit to halt further movement on the measure, but United States District Judge Ann Aiken denied judicial interference. Hernandez resigned from his seat the following day on Feb. 21.

If there is a vacancy in the Oregon Legislature, the board of county commissioners representing the vacant seat must select a replacement. This can only be done when the legislature is in session or when the vacancy happens more than 61 days before the next scheduled general election. The board must consider at least three candidates and select a person from the political party that last held the vacant seat. Persons selected to fill House seats serve for the remainder of the unexpired term.

As of the morning of Feb. 24, there have been 28 state legislative vacancies in 20 states this year. Eleven of those vacancies have been filled, with 17 vacancies remaining. Hernandez’s vacancy is one of 13 Democratic vacancies to have occurred in 2021. So far, seven vacancies have been filled by Democrats, while three have been filled by Republicans.  

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New Oregon Secretary of State sworn in; state becomes Democratic triplex

On January 4, Shemia Fagan (D) took her oath of office as Oregon Secretary of State. This gives Democrats triplex control of the state because Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum are both Democrats. A triplex occurs when one party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. There are 20 Republican triplexes and 18 Democratic triplexes.

Oregon already had a Democratic trifecta, where one party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature.

In 32 states, the same political party has both a trifecta and a triplex. Republicans hold such positions in 19 states, while Democrats hold it in 13. Of the 18 states without both a trifecta and a triplex of the same party, six have only a trifecta, six have only a triplex, and six have neither.

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Oregon ballot measure campaigns raised over $25.3 million

Support and opposition campaigns for Oregon’s four ballot measures reported raising over $25.3 million according to the latest campaign finance reports filed November 10. 

Yes for a Healthy Future, the campaign behind Oregon Measure 108, received the most contributions with over $13.7 million. The top donor to the committee with $3.3 million was Providence Health and Services, a Washington-based Catholic nonprofit hospital system. The opposition campaign—No on 108—reported $8,000 in contributions. Measure 108 was approved and will enact increased taxes on tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes).

Supporters of Oregon Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of controlled substances, reported nearly $6 million in contributions with More Treatment for a Better Oregon receiving the bulk of the contributions. The top donor to the support committees was the Drug Policy Alliance with $5 million in contributions. Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded marijuana legalization and drug decriminalization efforts in other states. More Treatment for a Better Oregon also received $500,000 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The No on Measure 110 campaign reported receiving $167,740.00 in contributions with the bulk of that being in loans.

Yes for Psilocybin Therapy, the campaign in support of Measure 109, reported receiving $3.9 million in contributions. The top donor to the campaign was New Approach PAC with $3.5 million. New Approach is a 527 nonprofit organization founded in 2014 and based in Washington, D.C. The organization has supported other ballot initiatives to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. No campaigns registered in opposition to Measure 109, which was approved.

There were two campaigns registered in support of Measure 107: Yes for Fair and Honest Elections and Honest Elections Oregon. Together, they reported receiving $171,397.00 in contributions. The measure was approved. It will authorize the state legislature and local governments to enact certain campaign finance restrictions and requirements. The top donors to the support campaign were End Citizen’s United ($25,200), Kate Brown Committee ($27,833.00), and AFSCME Council 75 (20,000.00).

From 1985 to 2020, the average number of measures appearing on even-numbered year Oregon ballots was 14. The four measures in 2020 were the fewest number of measures to appear on even-numbered year ballots.

In 2020, committees registered to support or oppose statewide ballot measures reported a combined total of $1.19 billion in contributions. The following five states had the most ballot measure campaign contributions reported:

  • California – $739.0 million in contributions
  • Illinois – $121.2 million in contributions
  • Massachusetts – $61.6 million in contributions
  • Colorado – $59.2 million in contributions
  • Arizona – $33.6 million in contributions

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Incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler wins re-election in Portland, Oregon

Image of City Hall in Portland, Oregon.

Incumbent Ted Wheeler defeated Sarah Iannarone and write-in candidate Teressa Raiford in the general election for mayor of Portland, Oregon. Wheeler was first elected in 2016.

Nineteen candidates ran in the May 19 primary. Wheeler received 49.1%, Iannarone received 24%, and Raiford received 8.5%. In 2016, Wheeler won during the primary with 55% of the vote.

This race drew media attention following protests in Portland over law enforcement’s use of force and the death of George Floyd. During his campaign, Wheeler said he led on police reform and the city’s COVID-19 response.



Fagan wins Oregon Secretary of State election

Shemia Fagan (D) defeated Kim Thatcher (R), Kyle Markley (L), and Nathalie Paravicini (Pacific Green Party) in the election for Oregon secretary of state. Incumbent Bev Clarno (R) did not run for re-election, which Governor Kate Brown (D) made a condition of her appointment after the death of former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R).

In Oregon, the secretary of state is first in line for the governor’s office in the event of a vacancy. Brown was the secretary of state before Richardson and became governor after John Kitzhaber (D) resigned in 2015. Democrats held the secretary of state seat from 1985 to 2017. Richardson defeated Brad Avakian (D) 47% to 43% in 2016. 

If the Oregon state legislature fails to establish a redistricting plan for state legislative districts, the secretary of state intervenes to draw the boundaries. In 2011, the legislature redrew congressional and legislative districts without changes from the secretary of state or the courts. It was the first time this had happened since 1911. Oregon’s next round of redistricting is scheduled for 2021, following the 2020 census.

The results of Oregon’s secretary of state and attorney general elections transitioned the state from divided triplex control to Democratic triplex control, meaning those two offices and the governor’s office will be held by Democrats. In 2020, the governor and attorney general are Democrats while the secretary of state is Republican. The state did not hold a gubernatorial election this year.



Oregon voters approve campaign finance law, tobacco tax measures

Oregon voters approved Measure 107, which authorizes the state legislature and local governments to pass certain campaign finance laws, by a vote of 77% to 23%. Voters also approved Measure 108 by a vote of 66% to 34% Measure 108 increases taxes on tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes) to fund the state’s Medical Assistance Program and other healthcare-related programs.



Oregon becomes the first state to legalize use of psilocybin mushrooms, decriminalize Schedule 1-IV drugs

Oregon became the first state to create a program for legal use of psilocybin mushrooms and to decriminalize all Schedule 1-IV drugs. 

Voters approved Measure 109 in a vote of 56% to 44%, according to unofficial election night results. It will permit licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older. 

Voters approved Measure 110 in a vote of 59% to 41%. It makes personal non-commercial possession of a controlled substance no more than a Class E violation (max fine of $100 fine). It also establishes a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded in part by the state’s marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings.

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