Republicans hope to close gap in Legislature

PORTLAND — It's another sleepy election year for the Democrat-heavy Oregon Legislature, where competition is nominal in most of the races for all 60 House seats and half of the 30 Senate seats up for election this year. Some races, such as House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson of Portland's District 60, have only one candidate.

But there are some notable races to watch in the House, where terms are two years, and a few in the Senate, where terms are four years.

Who's not seeking re-election?

In the Senate, two of the 15 senators — President Pro Tempore Diane Rosenbaum and Chip Shields — whose terms expire this year are not seeking re-election. Rosenbaum represents District 21, Southeast Portland and Milwaukie, and Shields represents District 22, North and Northeast Portland. Both officials are Democrats, as are the three candidates vying for their seats.

In the House, 12 of the 60 representatives are not seeking re-election. Two of those departing dozen — John Davis of District 26, Wilsonville, and Jim Weidner of District 24, Yamhill — are Republicans. The departing Democrats include Speaker Pro Tempore Tobias Read, District 27, Beaverton, who's running for state Treasurer; former Majority Leader Val Hoyle, District 14, West Eugene and Junction City, who's running for Secretary of State; and Jessica Vega Pederson, District 47, Portland, who's running for Multnomah County Commission.

Current Democratic Reps. Lew Frederick and Kathleen Taylor are also leaving the House and running for the Senate seats being vacated by Shields — where Frederick is the only candidate — and Rosenbaum, where Taylor and her one Democratic opponent are the only candidates.

What are some of the races to watch?

In House District 26, Wilsonville, three Republicans — A. Richard Vial, an attorney; former Rep. Matt Wingard; John Boylston, also an attorney — are squaring off in the May 17 primary in hopes of not turning over to Democrats the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. John Davis, who is not seeking re-election. Democrat Ray Lister faces Patrick Whewell in the primary, although Whewell hasn't been actively campaigning.

Democrat Rep. Kathleen Taylor is leaving the House in hopes of clenching Rosenbaum's Senate seat. This month she faces Democrat John Sweeney, a consultant and former Portland Parks & Recreation supervisor who lost a bid for the Oregon House in the 2014 primary.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat who represents District 44, Portland, faces local real estate agent Sharon Nasset in the primary. The race has been somewhat under the radar, and there are no Republican candidates, but Kotek is hoping to clinch the chamber's top position for a third term, which hasn't happened since the early 1990s.

Could Republicans take some seats from Democrats?

Democrats are likely to maintain their majority grip in both chambers — 35-25 in the House and 18-12 in the Senate — in the general election although Republicans hope to close the gap by a few seats this year.

Among them is House District 28, Aloha, where three Republicans — Gary Carlson, a former labor attorney who was recently endorsed by The Oregonian, retiree Daniel Martin and Beaverton resident Alton Mozingo II — are squaring off in the primary for a chance to oust Democratic incumbent Jeff Barker in November.

In House District 40, Clackamas County, one of the three Democratic candidates squaring off this month — real estate broker Mark Meek, attorney Steven Cade and landscape architect Terry Gibson — will face Republican Evon Tekorius, the only GOP candidate, in November. They're vying for the seat being vacated by Democrat Brent Barton, who's opted not to run.

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