By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Abortion rights rise in Oregon campaign

Quick: What group has the largest number of registered voters in Oregon? Hint: It’s a trick question.

Remembering that the reference was “group,” not political party, you might name our five largest counties — Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Lane and Marion — home to almost 60 percent of Oregon voters. Multnomah County alone supplies 18.9 percent of those voters.

You might guess “females,” who represent over 50 percent of Oregon’s population and have voter registration rates slightly above males.

If your first thought was “Democrats,” you get one star for identifying the single largest political party — now 34.2 percent of Oregon’s 2,956,243 registered voters. That compares to just 24.7 percent for Republicans, but trails Oregon’s largest political group – Non-Affiliated voters — who come in at 34.4 percent. That number rises to 41.1 percent when you add Independent, Libertarian and other minor parties.

And therein lies the drama for Oregon’s most interesting gubernatorial election: three women representing two edges and the middle of our political spectrum; a population looking for change from unpopular policies; candidates willing to stoke those concerns with fiercely barbed campaign messages; and the surprising reality that abortion rights could play a significant role in determining the winner in November.

Nationwide, pro-choice proponents have been galvanized by the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Oregon has among the most liberal abortion laws in the country — unlikely to change, but enough of an issue to impact the governor’s race.

As Lynne Terry wrote recently in the Oregon Capital Chronicle:

“(Tina) Kotek has long supported abortion rights, including the decision by the Legislature this February to allocate $15 million to help women access abortion care. (Christine) Drazan opposes abortion and considers Oregon’s law that doesn’t limit abortions to be ‘extreme.’ She has said she would veto any legislation that’s ‘designed to push Oregon further outside the mainstream.’ (Betsy) Johnson has consistently supported abortion rights, though she disapproved of the Legislature giving money to help women from out of state access care.”

Growing concern among Democrats about abortion access may give the voting edge to Kotek; Drazan will win Oregon’s Republican Party base, bolstered by other pro-life voters and people looking for a change in Oregon politics.

The big question remains: Can Johnson rouse enough support from moderates in both major parties, and combine that with strong support among non-affiliated and minor party voters?

For sure, an already spirited campaign is going to get even more feisty over the next seven weeks.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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