The county commissioners of Washington and Multnomah Counties appointed Maxine Dexter (D) to the Oregon House of Representatives on June 12. Dexter succeeds the late Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), who died May 15.
Dexter represents District 33 in the state House, a position for which she is already running. She won the Democratic primary on May 19 with 39.6% of the vote. Dexter will face Dick Courter (R), who was unopposed in the Republican primary, in the Nov. 3 general election. The unexpired portion of Greenlick’s term ends on January 10, 2021.
All 60 seats in the Oregon House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Democrats currently hold a 38-22 majority in the state House and an 18-12 majority in the state Senate.
Going into the 2020 state legislative elections, Oregon is one of 15 Democratic state government trifectas. A state government trifecta describes when one party holds the governor’s office and a majority in both chambers of the state legislature. There are currently 21 Republican state government trifectas and 14 divided governments.
On May 22, the Yes on IP 34 campaign, which is sponsoring the Oregon Psilocybin Program Initiative, submitted 135,000 signatures, and the Yes on IP 44 campaign, which is sponsoring the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative, submitted 147,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State.
Citizen initiative sponsors in Oregon need to collect 112,020 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify a measure for the ballot.
The Psilocybin Program Initiative would create a program and client screening process for administering psilocybin services under the Oregon Health Authority. The program would permit licensed service providers to administer a psilocybin product to pre-screened individuals 21 years of age or older. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (Drug Enforcement Administration |DEA), psilocybin is a “chemical obtained from certain types of fresh or dried mushrooms.” The mushrooms containing psilocybin are also known as magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, or shrooms. As of 2019, psilocybin was classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA.
The Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative would establish a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded by the state’s marijuana tax revenue. It would also reclassify certain drug offenses. Possession of a controlled substance in Schedule I-IV would be reclassified from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation resulting in a $100 fine. Individuals who manufacture or distribute illegal drugs would still be subject to a criminal penalty.
In Oregon, signatures are verified using a random sample method. If a first round of signatures is submitted at least 165 days before an election and contains raw, unverified signatures at least equal to the minimum requirement, but verification shows that not enough of the submitted signatures are valid, additional signatures can be submitted before the final deadline. May 22 was 165 days before the November election date, which means that the campaigns may still submit signatures before the July 2 deadline if the random sample shows they did not collect the required number of verified signatures to qualify.
The campaigns had previously announced on May 4 that they would be coordinating their campaign efforts to ensure the campaigns reached their signature goals. Tom Eckert, the sponsor of IP 34, said, “IP 34 and IP 44 have always enjoyed a supportive relationship with regard to gathering signatures, and that will certainly continue until both campaigns cross the finish line and make the November ballot.”
Two measures have been certified to appear on the Oregon ballot in November 2020 so far. Both were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. A total of 183 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Oregon from 1995 to 2018. Of the 183, 47.5 percent were approved.
Shemia Fagan became the presumptive Democratic nominee for Oregon Secretary of State on May 22 after her opponent Mark Hass conceded. As of May 25, Fagan received 36.2% of the votes to Hass’s 35.6%, a margin of 3,343 votes. Jamie McLeod-Skinner, received 27.5% of the vote.
Fagan will face state Sen. Kim Thatcher (R) in the general election.
Oregon elections are conducted entirely by mail. Preliminary results released on May 19 showed Hass with a lead over Fagan. By late Wednesday, Fagan had taken the lead as additional mail-in ballots were counted.
Fagan, a state senator, said she “spent her career fighting for working Oregonians, holding big corporations accountable, and speaking truth to power.” She received endorsements from the Oregon AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood PAC.
Hass, also a state senator, said he had “experience in getting big things passed into law” and had “specialized in the very things required of the Secretary of State.” He was endorsed by former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) and The Oregonian.
McLeod-Skinner, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, said she was “the only candidate who has developed and implemented policy systems for land, water, and natural resource management.” She received endorsements from the Sierra Club of Oregon and Our Revolution Portland.
Unlike many states, Oregon’s secretary of state is first in the line of succession to the governorship. There is no lieutenant governor in Oregon. Four governors, including incumbent Kate Brown (D), were originally secretaries of state who succeeded to the office following a vacancy in the governorship.
Oregon is one of 14 states with divided triplex control, with a Democratic governor, a Democratic attorney general, and a Republican secretary of state. Incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) was appointed to the office following the death of Dennis Richardson (R) in February 2019. Clarno did not seek a full term in 2020.
May 19, 2020, was the ballot return due date for voters participating in Oregon’s 2020 primary elections. This year, 16 of the 30 seats in the state senate and all 60 seats in the state house are up for election. There were 33 contested state legislative primaries, six of which were for state senate seats and 27 of which were for state house seats. Twenty of the contested primaries were Democratic races and 13 were Republican. Oregon’s 33 contested primaries are a 32% increase from the 25 held in 2018 and are the most since at least 2010.
In all, 189 major-party candidates filed for state legislative seats in Oregon this year, including 104 Democrats and 85 Republicans. This is an 18% increase from the 160 candidates who filed in 2018.
Both chambers had an above-average number of open seats relative to recent elections. Between 2010 and 2018, an average of 2.2 state senate seats and 9.8 state house seats were open in Oregon each even-numbered year. This year, there were four open state senate seats and 12 open state house seats. This was more than in 2018—when there was one open senate seat and seven open house seats—but less than in 2016, when there were four open state senate seats and 14 open house seats.
Four incumbents faced primary challengers: state Sens. Ginny Burdick (D-18) and Bill Hansell (R-29) and state Reps. Paul Holvey (D-08) and Rob Nosse (D-42). All four advanced to the general election. An incumbent seeking re-election will appear on the general election ballot for 12 of the 16 senate districts and 48 of the 60 state house districts.
Oregon’s only state legislative district with both a contested Democratic primary and a contested Republican primary was House District 32. Located in Oregon’s northwestern corner, District 32 is currently represented by Tiffiny Mitchell, who is not running for re-election. Mitchell was the target of a recall campaign in 2019 that did not make the ballot.
Heading into the general election, Democrats hold an 18-12 supermajority in the state senate and a 37-22 supermajority in the state house. Because Gov. Kate Brown is also a Democrat, Oregon is one of 15 Democratic trifectas.
The winners of the general election will be responsible for drawing up new state legislative and congressional district boundaries after the 2020 census is completed.
The statewide primary for Oregon was held on May 19, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020. Due to Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, vote totals are continuing to be reported. Candidates ran in elections for the following offices:
Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Attorney General
• Secretary of State: Incumbent Bev Clarno (R) did not file for re-election. Kim Thatcher (R) advanced from the Republican primary to the general election. The Democratic primary remained too close to call based on the unofficial results as of May 21. The candidates on the ballot included Shemia Fagan, Mark Hass, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner.
• Treasurer: Incumbent Tobias Read (D) and Jeff Gudman (R) advanced from the primary to the general election.
• Attorney General: Incumbent Ellen Rosenblum (D) and Michael Cross (R) advanced from the primary to the general election.
Sixteen seats in the Oregon State Senate
• Each incumbent who filed for re-election advanced from the primary to the general election. In Districts 18, 21, 22, and 23 no Republican candidates filed in the primary. All Democratic primaries saw at least one candidate file and advance to the general election.
All 60 seats in the Oregon House of Representatives
• Each incumbent who filed for re-election advanced from the primary to the general election. In Districts 34, 42, 43, 45, 46, and 48 no Republican candidates filed in the primary election. All Democratic primaries saw at least one candidate file and advance to the general election.
Three Oregon Supreme Court justices
• Position 1: Incumbent Thomas Balmer won re-election outright in the nonpartisan primary after winning 71.5% of the vote. He defeated Van Pounds.
• Position 4: Incumbent Chris Garrett was the only candidate to file in the primary. The election was canceled, and Garrett automatically advanced to the general election.
• Position 7: Incumbent Martha L. Walters was the only candidate to file in the primary. The election was canceled, and Walters automatically advanced to the general election.
Four Oregon Court of Appeals justices
• Position 1: Incumbent Josephine H. Mooney was the only candidate to file in the nonpartisan primary. The election was canceled, and Mooney automatically advanced to the general election.
• Position 9 (special election): Incumbent Jacqueline Kamins was the only candidate to file in the primary. The election was canceled, and Kamins automatically advanced to the general election.
• Position 11: This race remained too close to call based on the unofficial results as of May 21. The primary race included incumbent Joel S. DeVore and Kyle Krohn.
• Position 12: Incumbent Erin C. Lagesen was the only candidate to file in the primary. The election was canceled, and Lagesen automatically advanced to the general election.
• Position 13: Incumbent Douglas L. Tookey was the only candidate to file in the primary. The election was canceled, and Tookey automatically advanced to the general election.
Ballotpedia also covered local elections in the following areas:
• Portland: The primary for mayor could not be called based on the unofficial results as of May 21.
• Multnomah County: The primary for Multnomah County Commission Districts 1, 3, and 4 could not be called based on the unofficial results as of May 21.
Oregon exclusively uses a vote-by-mail system. Voters may return their ballots to the office of the county clerk by mail or in person. Because of this system, there is no need for explicit absentee or early voting procedures.
Oregon’s primary was the 10th statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primaries will be held on June 2 in the following states:
• New Mexico
• South Dakota
Voters in the Portland Metro area in Oregon approved Measure 26-210 on Tuesday, authorizing an income surtax and business tax to fund homeless services. The measure authorizes a 1% tax on household income above $200,000 and individual income above $150,000 and a 1% profit tax on businesses with gross receipts higher than $5 million. The income tax was designed to be on resident and non-resident income earned within the Metro area.
Metro officials estimated the combined revenue of the income and business taxes to be $248 million per year. The tax would take effect in 2021 and expire in 2030. Measure 26-210 required that the revenue raised by the income and business taxes be divided according to the proportion expected to be received from the three counties that make up Portland Metro. Multnomah County was set to receive 45.3% of the revenue, Washington County was set to receive 33.3%, and Clackamas County was set to receive 21.3%. A 20-member oversight committee will be formed to conduct and publish annual financial audits.
Vote totals available as of Wednesday afternoon showed voters approving Measure 26-210 by a vote of 63% to 37%. Voters in Multnomah county approved the measure by a vote of 77% in favor to 23% opposed. Voters in Washington County approved the measure by a vote of 52% in favor to 48% opposed. Voters in Clackamas county rejected the measure by a vote of 53% opposed to 47% in favor. Here Together Coalition led the campaign in support of Measure 26-210. Alliance for an Affordable Metro led the campaign in opposition to Measure 26-210.
Portland voters also approved Measure 26-209 to authorize the renewal of the city’s gas tax for four years at a rate of $0.10 per gallon and dedicate revenues to infrastructure repairs. City officials estimated the gas tax would raise $74.5 million over four years. The $0.10 gas tax was first approved in 2016. Vote totals available as of Wednesday afternoon showed voters approving Measure 26-209 by a vote of 77% to 23%. The measure was approved in each county.
Jo Rae Perkins won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Oregon on May 19, defeating three other candidates. With an estimated 69% of ballots tallied, Perkins received 49% of the vote, followed by Paul Romero with 30.7%, Robert Schwartz with 11.5%, and John Verbeek with 8.3%. Perkins will run in the general election on Nov. 3, 2020 against incumbent Jeff Merkley (D). Merkley ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Perkins submitted a Candidate Connection survey. In her biography, she described herself as “a Main Street American who believes the US Constitution strongly and clearly spells out the role of the US Senate and the federal government.”
Both of Oregon’s U.S. Senate seats have been held by Democrats since Merkley defeated incumbent Gordon Smith (R) 49% to 45% in 2008. Major race rating outlets view the general U.S. Senate election in Oregon as Solid or Safe Democratic. Heading into the general election, Republicans hold 53 U.S. Senate seats to Democrats’ 45.
Thomas Balmer won re-election to the Oregon Supreme Court, Position 1, on May 19. He defeated challenger Van Pounds. According to unofficial results, Balmer received 71.5% of the vote to Pounds’ 28.1%. In Oregon, candidates in nonpartisan primaries can win an election outright if they receive over 50% of the vote in the primary.
Balmer, the court’s most senior member, was appointed in 2001 by Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). He was re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014, running unopposed in each race. Balmer served as chief justice from 2012 to 2018. He was endorsed by The Oregonian, the Bend Bulletin, and the Eugene Weekly editorial boards in the primary.
Pounds worked as a policy analyst and chief of enforcement and securities at the Oregon Department of Business and Consumer Services. He previously worked as an attorney with the Missouri Department of Revenue. Pounds was recommended by the Oregon Right to Life PAC and endorsed by the Taxpayer Association of Oregon in the primary.
Two other incumbents justices, Chris Garrett and Martha Walters, were also up for re-election. Both ran unopposed in their primaries.
The Oregon Constitution establishes nonpartisan elections as the mode of selection for state court justices. In the event of a vacancy, justices are appointed by the governor. All seven justices currently serving on the Oregon Supreme Court were appointed by Democratic governors.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), who represented District 33 in the Oregon House of Representatives, died of natural causes on May 15. He was first elected to the chamber in 2003 and most recently won re-election in 2018. Greenlick announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election.
Greenlick was a pharmacist and the founding director of the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research Foundation Hospitals. He served on the state House’s Health Care Committee, among others, and chaired the committee from 2007 to 2019.
Greenlick’s death is the only current vacancy in the Oregon State Legislature. The board of county commissioners representing District 33 must select his replacement within 30 days. The appointed representative, who must come from the Democratic Party, will serve the remainder of Greenlick’s unexpired term ending on January 10, 2021. Oregon has a Democratic state government trifecta, with the Democratic Party holding the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon ballot measure from 1932 in its ruling on Ramos v. Louisiana. In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and in a 6-3 decision, the Court held that “if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court.”
In 1932, Oregon voters passed Measure 2, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, with 58 percent of the vote. The measure allowed non-unanimous verdicts in all criminal trials, except first-degree murder trials. It also provided that in criminal trials any accused person, with the consent of the trial judge, may waive trial by a jury and consent in writing to be tried by the judge alone. In the published voting guide, state legislators in favor of the amendment argued that it would “prevent one or two jurors from controlling the verdict.”
Oregon and Louisiana were the last two states to allow non-unanimous verdicts. Between 1812 and 1898, the state of Louisiana required unanimous juries to convict persons for felonies in state criminal trials. In 1898, Louisiana held a state constitutional convention, which resulted in an amendment to allow 9-3 verdicts for serious felonies. In 1973, Louisiana held another state constitutional convention, which increased the requirement for non-unanimous verdicts from 9-3 to 10-2. In 2018, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2 with 64 percent of the vote. It was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that required the unanimous agreement of the jurors to convict people charged with felonies.
In its decision, the Supreme Court explained that the enactment of non-unanimous jury verdicts in Oregon and Louisiana was a product of racism. Writing the majority opinion for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Courts in both Louisiana and Oregon have frankly acknowledged that race was a motivating factor in the adoption of their States’ respective nonunanimity rules.”
Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Elena Kagan dissented. In his dissenting opinion, Alito argued against overturning precedent established by Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), which ruled that the Sixth Amendment required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials. He argued that overruling Apodaca would cause “a potential tsunami of litigation.” The Court’s majority acknowledged the potential number of cases challenging non-unanimous jury verdicts but determined that it did not justify withholding the Sixth Amendment’s protections to state criminal trials.