SALEM — Shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, the first returns in the Oregon primary election will be announced. The fruits of months of campaigning could come down to just a few minutes of finding out the early voting trends. The votes will not only tell us who won, but hints at why — and clues to what it means for their chances in the general election Nov. 6.
Some of the questions that will be answered on or soon after the election:
Will there be a record low turnout for the primary?
In the past 30 years, turnout in an Oregon primary has never fallen below 34 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. As of Monday, just over 18 percent of voters had returned their ballots. Will Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties beat the statewide average?
Will Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, get his wish for a re-match in the governor’s race against incumbent Democrat Kate Brown, who defeated him in the 2012 race for secretary of state?
Can a Republican moderate like Buehler win the GOP nomination for governor at a time when the most active elements of the party’s base are so strongly aligned with President Donald Trump? Conservatives Sam Carpenter of Bend and Greg Wooldridge of Portland together could receive more Republican votes than Buehler, but split support in a way that allows Buehler to win a plurality and go on to the general election against Brown.
And will Phil Knight’s $500,000 bet on Buehler — in the form of the largest campaign contribution ever given by an individual to a candidate in Oregon — pay off? Financed in part by Knight’s donation, Buehler has run a furious ad campaign in the past two weeks.
Will the race for commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries be decided Tuesday by having either former House Majority Leader Val Hoyle or Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden win a majority of the vote?
A third candidate, Union County Commissioner Jack Howard, could siphon enough votes to keep the winner under 50 percent and force the race to go to November between the top two finishers.
Who will emerge victorious among a crowded, diverse, geographically spread-out field of candidates in the Democratic race for the 2nd Congressional District, where it is possible to win with 25 percent of the vote?
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, regularly wins the district with more than 60 percent of the vote and has already raised more than $3 million. Seven Democrats, three Republicans and an Independent are running for the chance to unseat Walden.
Will work and government experience (Jack Zika) or Republican credentials (Ben Schimmoller) win over voters in the Republican primary for the 53rd House District? Will Republican Cheri Helt follow the example of Buehler and publicly distance herself from Trump as she tries to win the 54th House District, which has a Democratic plurality? And will Democrat Nathan Boddie get the money and campaign expertise from the Democratic Party that Helt is already receiving from Republicans? Boddie and Helt will likely face each other in November.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org