The predicted political shift from Democrat to Republican in the 2022 midterms came not in a wave, but in a trickle.
For most of U.S. political history, for a new president’s midterm election, voters usually vote for the minority party, giving that minority party the majority in Congress. So with President Joe Biden, a Democrat facing low approval ratings, the expectation for the midterm was a red wave. But that wave, projected to even hit Oregon’s state races, didn’t end up with Republicans having a dominant win in Congress.
With so many races too close to call by the end of election night, and as Eugene Weekly went to press on Wednesday, the Republican takeover appears anemic, due to youth and women voters turning out in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and talk of potential Medicare privatization. In Oregon, a conservative takeover happened on the Lane County Board of County Commissioners, but the state and the majority of its congressional seats could remain in Democratic control.
“For a layperson, it can be confusing how powerful a structural force the midterm effect is,” says Rachel Bitecofer, a Democratic Party strategist who lives in Eugene and gained popularity among political analysts for accurately predicting the 2018 midterm elections.
To show what the Republican wins should have been, Bitecofer points to Donald Trump’s statement to press outlets at Mar-a-Lago that Republicans would take 52 new seats in the House of Representatives. “That is what would’ve happened in a midterm effect had Roe not been eviscerated, and that really sent a shockwave to an electorate that would normally be tuned out of a midterm, with Democrats seizing on the issue and amping on the issue in the messaging to tighten the effect,” Bitecofer says.
Republicans should’ve “cleaned fucking house,” she says, without mincing words, but instead “they got fucking rejected.” Part of the reason the Democrats staved off the Republican takeover is because of that youth vote nationally, she says. “It exceeded expectations,” she says.
U.S. Representative-elect Val Hoyle, who’ll be the first woman to represent Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, says the Republicans got arrogant with their chances of taking over Congress. Republican candidates and leadership talked about their plans to privatize the country’s social net — such as Medicare and Social Security — and called for a nationwide abortion ban. “They said the quiet part out loud,” she adds.
As of Nov. 9, Hoyle leads Skarlatos, 51 to 43 percent, but Skarlatos hasn’t conceded as he said via Twitter that there are more ballots to count. Hoyle says that she heard from an official from the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that she outperformed many Democrats in other races throughout the country. The three other Oregon congressional district races without an incumbent are still too early to call.
The Oregonian/OregonLive declared Tina Kotek the winner of the gubernatorial race, as her narrow lead grew over Republican Christine Drazan and despite independent Betsy Johnson’s candidacy. Kotek and Massachusset’s Gov.-elect Maura Healey will be the nation’s first two openly lesbian governors.
The Democratic Party should maintain its control of the Oregon Legislature, too. Early results indicate that the party will have 33 seats in the Oregon House, a loss of four seats, though a number of races are still close. And the party may lose a seat in the Senate but will still have the majority.
Although Oregon and the U.S. saw only a mild Republican win, the Lane County Commission will see a political shift to the right. In the May primary, developer and Christian missionary David Loveall defeated Joe Berney for the board’s Springfield seat. And retiring west Lane Commissioner Jay Boizievich’s hand-picked successor Ryan Ceniga leads progressive candidate Dawn Lesley 55 to 44 percent in the general election.
The contested seat on the Lane County Circuit Court was won by Judge Beatrice Grace, who was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown in August. She defeated state Rep. Marty Wilde, 60 to 38 percent.
Local and most statewide measures appear to have passed. Lane County’s park levy raising money to improve its parks has the support of nearly 60 percent of voters, and Eugene’s street repair and bike safety bond has 64 percent voting yes.
Voters have approved Measures 112 (removes slavery from the Constitution), 113 (disqualifies legislators from holding state office with 10 unexcused absences from legislative floor sessions) and 114 (requires a permit to acquire firearms and prohibits large capacity ammunition magazines). Measure 111, which amends the Oregon Constitution to require the state to ensure that every resident has access to affordable health care as a fundamental right, was losing the morning of Nov. 9, but by a very narrow margin.
The Lane County Election Office still has a lot of ballots to count. Dena Dawson, the county’s newly appointed Lane County clerk, tells EW that it has fewer than 30,000 ballots to count. Of that number, 23,000 are remaining ballots that came in on election night that hadn’t been counted and 2,000 haven’t been signed by voters. More Lane County results will be released Nov. 9 and 10, she says.