You can be forgiven for not noticing this, but the 2020 election season in Oregon officially has begun.
We can hear your weary response: “It’s always election season in Oregon,” you are saying, with a heavy sigh.
And there is a certain measure of truth to this. After all, it seems like there’s something on the ballot every time May or November rolls around, regardless of whether the year is even-numbered or odd-numbered — a bond levy measure, a school board election, a special election to fill a vacancy. This coming November will bring a handful of those measures to ballots. The end of the year might also bring a ballot measure calling for the recall of Gov. Kate Brown.
On the federal level, of course, the 2020 election campaign essentially began as soon as the final ballots were counted in the 2016 election; President Donald Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration.
So, yes, to some extent, it always is election season.
But these things must have official starting dates. So, just as Monday was the first official day of fall, Thursday, Sept. 12, was the first official day of Oregon’s 2020 election. It was the first day for major party or nonpartisan candidates to file declarations of candidacy with the secretary of state’s office. Candidates have until March 10 to file for the May 19 primary election.
In Oregon, 2020 races include president, U.S. senator (Jeff Merkley, who flirted with a presidential bid, has said he’ll seek re-election) and all five of the state’s seats in the U.S. House.
The top state race likely will be for the secretary of state’s position, which at first glance doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, but take another look: The position has served as the jumping-off point for prospective governors. (In part, this is because Oregon’s constitution says that the secretary of state is first in line to succeed the governor, as we learned when Brown succeeded John Kitzhaber, who resigned.) When Republican Dennis Richardson won election as secretary of state in 2016, he was the first GOP candidate to win a statewide election in two decades. But his untimely death from cancer means that the seat is open in 2020. You can bet that the GOP will make it a priority to hang onto that office.
But the race also is attracting up-and-coming Democratic stars, including state Sen. Mark Hass and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who ran a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful campaign in 2016 against U.S. Rep. Greg Walden. We’re hearing rumors that Rep. Dan Rayfield of Corvallis is pondering a run for that office, but Rayfield has yet to say anything official.
Also at stake in the 2020 election will be nine of the seats in the state Senate and all 60 seats in the House, not to mention a variety of judicial positions.
Many of those races, unfortunately, may not leave voters with much choice: In the 2018 primary, the vast majority of legislative races featured just one candidate or, in some cases, no one. If you’re interested in a run for office, you still have time, and the secretary of state’s website has some useful resources.
As for the rest of us, the least we can do is register to vote. Since today is National Voter Registration Day, this would be a good time to take care of that vital civic duty.
And then, batten down the hatches: This 2020 campaign should be a doozy.