Author, activist and one-time Jackson County Commissioner Jeff Golden decisively defeated Medford tech entrepreneur Jessica Gomez to reclaim Oregon’s Third District Senate seat for the Democrats.
Golden led Gomez 56 to 44 percent in early returns, and received a concession call from Gomez shortly before 10 PM Tuesday.
Golden ran on his long connection to southern Oregon, where he’s lived since the 1970s, and on an unapologetically progressive platform. He went into the race with significant local name recognition, having been in the public eye for decades as a politician, writer and public media program host.
At his victory party in an Ashland restaurant, Golden said his win signaled a desire among voters to address important issues.
"It feels like a good night for those who are ready to get really serious about climate action and about some bold steps to make a fairer economy in Oregon," he told JPR.
Gomez is a political rookie who runs a computer chip company with her husband. She was until recently a Democrat, and, in a district that has tended Democratic in recent years, sought to distance herself from some of the harsher rhetoric of national Republicans. Gomez couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Golden will reclaim the senate seat for the Democrats, who lost it after Sen. Alan Bates died in 2016 and Republican Alan DeBoer subsequently won the seat in a special election.
With Democrats also regaining their supermajority in the House, the party is in a position to pass spending bills in Salem with no Republican votes. But Golden says that doesn’t mean Democrats will have a free hand next legislative session. Even if they pass major tax reform, he says …
"Somebody’s going to be really unhappy with it, likely somebody with deep pockets, the ability to put it on the ballot. So, it’s fair to say that Oregonians as a whole will vote on any significant tax reform or tax enhancement that happens."
Golden also notes he’s had his own differences with party leadership, especially over campaign finance. He says he’ll push hard to limit the influence of corporate money and political action committees, something he says may not be universally welcomed by party leaders.