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10 Takeaways From Oregon's Primary

<p>An "I Voted" sticker from the May 17 Oregon primary election.</p>

Nate Sjol

An "I Voted" sticker from the May 17 Oregon primary election.

Tuesday night's Oregon primary answered many political questions going forward in the state. Aside from politics, measures on gas taxes, marijuana sales and environmental issues were voted on and decided. With so many races, measures and percentages to sort through, here are 10 key takeaways from Oregon's primary.

Bernie Sanders turned his large campaign crowds into a large victory on Tuesday night in Oregon. Remarkably, Sanders showed strength in every corner of Oregon, at least among registered Democrats (the only ones allowed to vote in the primary). The Vermont senator edged out Hillary Clinton with 54 percent of the vote to win the Oregon presidential primary and keep his political reign going in the Pacific Northwest.

Clinton, however, is still favored to win the Democratic nomination and presumably go up against would be GOP nominee Donald Trump in November. But Oregon's results demonstrate why Clinton is going to need Sanders in the fall to help gin up enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket.

One time was the charm for Donald Trump in Oregon. The New York billionaire only campaigned once in the state but came out of Tuesday's presidential primary with 67 percent of the vote and a big win. Last week, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden endorsed 'The Donald,' and it seems inevitable that he will be on the GOP ticket come November.

For weeks, Trump has been receiving resistance from Republican leaders on his nomination, but with another victory, it seems the GOP might have to fall in line behind him if it wants a chance at taking back the White House.

Going into Tuesday’s election, the big question in Portland was whether Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler would reach the 50 percent mark to avoid going on to a runoff. He didn’t just edge over that mark, he ended up racing past it in one of the bigger landslides of the night. Wheeler became the Rose City's new mayor by almost 40 percentage points (with 58 percent of the vote), beating out Jules Bailey, who came in second with just 16 percent of the vote.

Wheeler may have had a mixed record as state treasurer – in 2014, voters rejected his plan for a major college scholarship initiative – but he demonstrated a mastery of Portland’s fractious politics.

His entry into the mayor’s race last year helped persuade incumbent Charlie Hales to drop his own re-election candidacy (becoming the city’s third one-term mayor in a row). Wheeler won the support of the business community while fending off attempts by Bailey and Sarah Iannarone (the two other contenders who stood out from the 15-candidate field) to win over the support of the progressives.

Neither Bailey nor Iannarone turned out to be a local version of Bernie Sanders, and Wheeler now has seven months to figure out how to seize the reins of the mayoralty. If he can avoid scandal, and figure out how to navigate Portland’s unusual commission form of government, Wheeler has a chance to leave a lasting legacy.

Wheeler's win also brings up more questions for Oregon politics. Who will take his place as Oregon treasurer? Will Wheeler be able to truly relate to the residents of Portland? And what will prompt him to once again swim across the Willamette?

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick spent much of the last two years trying to figure out how to raise money to repair Portland’s crumbling streets. A local gas tax wasn’t his preferred approach, but it looks like it will be the one that works.

The latest returns show the 10-cent-a-gallon tax – the highest local gas tax in the state – passing with just over 51 percent of the vote. Novick said Tuesday night that polling showed he started the campaign with just 55 percent support. That’s not much of a reserve, considering that tax measures usually only decline in support as opponents raise objections. It’s roughly akin to starting a planned 30-day sailing trip to Hawaii with enough food for 31 days.

Cascade Locks voters sent a resounding “no” to Nestle Tuesday night, with 69 percent of voters voting for a measure to prohibit the commercial production of bottled water in Hood River County.

For years, international food giant Nestle has been working to secure water rights and build a plant in Cascade Locks that would bottle as much as 100 million gallons of water a year. Nestle’s plans called for the city to exchange water rights with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s something many residents and local tribal members were adamantly against.

“It’s pretty exciting that our small community has won this overwhelming victory,” Nestle opponent Aurora Del Val told EarthFix’s Cassandra Profita Tuesday night after the win. “This is the most expensive campaign in the history of this county, and with people power the voters have prevailed.”

Records obtained by OPB show that Nestle provided $105,000 in financial support to a PAC opposing the ballot measure. Meanwhile, backers of the ballot measure raised a little more than $45,000, as Profita reported Tuesday.

But the opponents were cautious Tuesday night, saying they expect Nestle will seek a legal challenge to overturn the measure.

Eager entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on Oregon’s cannabis craze won’t be able to do so in Grant or Klamath counties. Tuesday, voters of the rural counties — located in eastern and southern Oregon respectively — turned down ballot measures seeking to overturn the counties’ bans on recreational marijuana cultivation, processing and sales.

Shortly after the state legalized marijuana in 2014, counties and cities were given the option to ban marijuana production and sales if at least 55 percent of the voters opposed legalization.

Salem oncologist Bud Pierce easily defeated four other contenders to secure the Republican Party’s nomination for governor. Pierce won by starting early and investing more than a million dollars of his own money in the race. Oh, and it probably didn’t hurt that physicians remain one of the few admired professional occupations left in America.

We’ll see if he can make much of a case. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown — who easily beat Democratic rivals in Tuesday's primary — has good approval ratings and she’s been busy portraying herself as a steady hand on the tiller after the upheaval of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s resignation.

Kitzhaber, you’ll remember, resigned in February 2015, shortly after beginning his historic fourth term as the Beaver State’s governor. That moved Brown, then serving as Oregon’s Secretary of State, into the governor’s office and forced this special election to finish out the final two years of that term.

Pierce’s victory was interesting for the simple fact that he defeated Alley, a former candidate for Oregon governor and the one-time head of the state's Republican Party. Voters will next get to cast their vote for one of the three candidates (or a write-in) in November.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian emerged from a tough three-way race for the Democratic nod for secretary of state, and former Rep. Dennis Richardson easily won the Republican primary. The two of them are aggressive, knowledgeable and come from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Richardson has some advantages Republicans usually don’t. He gained a lot of name recognition running against Kitzhaber in 2014 – and he isn’t shy about saying that Kitzhaber’s resignation a few months after the election proved that there is indeed something wrong with Democratic rule in Salem.

But Republicans haven’t won the secretary of state’s office since 1980 and they face their usual presidential year problem. On top of that, Avakian is an aggressive campaigner who will have the main Democratic interest groups solidly in his corner.

A candidate on the ballot beats a write-in virtually every time. That’s what you have to conclude after watching how easily state Senate candidate Dennis Linthicum and state House candidate Werner Reschke rolled over write-in hopefuls in Republican primaries centered in Klamath County.

The write-in candidates – C.W. Smith in the Senate and Al Switzer in the House – had the support of Congressman Greg Walden and much of the local political establishment. They were upset that the husband-and-wife couple of Sen. Doug Whitsett and Rep. Gail Whitsett dropped their re-election bid after the filing deadline passed. That left Linthicum and Reschke unopposed.

Linthicum and Reschke easily exceeded the number of write-in votes cast. However, their races aren’t over.

It looks like they will face write-in candidates for the Independent nomination at a minimum – and at least those Independents will actually be listed on the ballot in the fall.

Want more about the primary? Dave Miller and OPB political reporter Jeff Mapes broke down the results of Oregon’s election in a special edition of OPB Politics Now. Listen now online or wherever you get your podcasts.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Bryan M. Vance, David Stuckey, Jeff Mapes