Randy Stapilus: Insiders reaped the rewards in this year's May primary

##Randy Stapilus
##Randy Stapilus

After all the primary campaign season drama this year, most of the Oregon results tended toward the familiar in both parties. And most races weren’t even close.

On Tuesday, Oregon had two relatively critical Democratic primary contests, in ways important both locally and nationally, that collected plenty of attention in the state and beyond. Both were resolved sharply, by strong margins that reflected the sensibilities of Oregon’s — and the nation’s — Democratic leadership.

In Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District, seven candidates were competing to replace veteran U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer. But the race was clearly going to come down to two: state Rep. Maxine Dexter and former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.

Dexter has been a productive legislator, working smoothly with Democratic leadership. Jayapal was perhaps best known as the sister of U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle — one of the most visible and controversial progressives in the entire House.

Dexter got the mass of support from contributors and Democratic-leaning organizations, and her lopsided win — she got about twice the votes of Jayapal — looked like a clear demonstration of Democratic organization clout.

In Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, one of the top battleground districts nationally this year, the Democratic nominee from two years ago, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, faced state legislator Janelle Bynum. They were seeking the chance to take on first-term Republican incumbent Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

McLeod-Skinner lost only narrowly to Chavez-DeRemer last time, and the primary contest was widely described as competitive, with the sole public poll giving Bynum a slight lead.

On election day, however, Bynum’s lead wasn’t slight at all. In initial returns, she led in five of the six counties.

The exception was Jefferson County, which had only one vote tallied — a vote for McLeod-Skinner. Overall, Bynum led more than two-to-one.

Some of that probably had to do with negative headlines for McLeod-Skinner in the last few months, and reports Republicans were backing her because they thought she would be the weaker candidate in the November general election. But the larger factor may have been a solid weighing-in for Bynum on the part of the Democratic establishment, from Gov. Tina Kotek on down.

If one trend line ran through most of the notable Oregon primary results on Tuesday, it might have been the absence of revolt against the powers that be.

In the top statewide race, for secretary of state, speculation had run in favor of the well-established Treasurer Tobias Read, who two years ago had experience running for governor. On Tuesday, he swept to a stunningly wide lead, winning about 70% of the vote in the Democratic primary over his chief opponent, Democratic state Sen. James Manning.

The margin of the Democratic legislator seeking to replace Read in the treasurer’s office was even wider. State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, squaring off against Jeff Gudman, who had sought the office twice before, was an even larger 77% to 33%.

The familiar and the established mostly did well on the Republican side, too.

In the 1st Senate District on the Southern Oregon coast, a determined effort to take out incumbent Sen. David Brock Smith fell far short, as he received twice the votes of the nearest of his three competitors.

In the 2nd Senate District in Josephine and parts of Douglas and Jackson counties, Noah Robinson, the son of incumbent Art Robinson, decisively won the nomination for the seat there. In the 28th Senate District in Klamath County, Diane Linthicum — wife of incumbent Dennis Linthicum, the GOP’s uncontested Republican secretary of state nominee — breezed to a decisive victory.

The most striking result in the whole state may have come in the 12th House District in rural Lane County, where incumbent Rep. Charlie Conrad, a Dexter Republican who split from his party in a vote concerning abortion and gender care, was securing only about a fifth of the vote against challenger Darin Harbick.

Striking, but not at all surprising. There, as elsewhere, the message seemed to be: Stick with the party line or the party may line up against you.


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