Democratic Party of Oregon

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Democratic Party of Oregon
Chairperson Frank Dixon
Senate leader Peter Courtney
House leader Tina Kotek
Founded 1851 (1851)
Headquarters 232 NE 9th Ave
Portland, Oregon
 United States
Ideology Liberalism
Social liberalism
Political position Center-left
Colors Green, Blue
Seats in State Upper Houses
18 / 30
Seats in State Lower Houses
35 / 60
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The Democratic Party of Oregon, based in Portland,[1] is the official Oregon affiliate of the United States Democratic Party. It is recognized by the state of Oregon as a major political party, along with the Oregon Republican Party. The State Central Committee, made up of two delegates elected from each of Oregon's 36 counties and one additional delegate for every 15,000 registered Democrats, is the main authoritative body of the party.[2] After Oregon was admitted into the Union in 1859, the Democratic party controlled the state. Oregon elected twice as many Democrats as Republicans between 1859 and 1879 in statewide elections for governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, and congressmen.[3] The party holds 35 members in the State House that has 60 representatives total, and 18 members in the State Senate, out of 30 delegates total.[4] The party also holds the Governor's office (Kate Brown), Attorney General (Ellen Rosenblum), Labor Commissioner (Brad Avakian), and State Treasurer (Ted Wheeler).[5] The Democrats also have both U.S senate positions in their state and send four of the five U.S House representatives from Oregon to D.C.

Current membership

As of February 2013, there were 868,395 registered Democrats in Oregon, compared to 680,878 registered Republicans, 495,330 registered Non-Affiliated voters, and 155,501 voters registered with other parties.


As prescribed by Oregon state statutes governing major political parties, the party comprises all registered voters designating their party affiliation as Democrat. In each biennial primary election conducted in even-numbered years, such affiliated voters elect members from each precinct to their respective county's central committee, which in turn elects delegates to a state convention, charged with organizing the party at the state level, and arranging for the day-to-day conduct of the party. These county central committees also send delegates to the standing committees of their respective congressional districts, which support their constituent county central committees and coordinate district-wide party activities and campaigns.


Party caucuses

The state party recognizes ten party caucuses formed to address specific political issues in their constituent communities:


The party's 2010 platform outlines the following positions and policies:[6]

Health care

The party supports a system that gives universal coverage to everyone in Oregon, a system that is not for profit. This would provide basic health care which contains medical, dental, vision, mental health care, addiction treatment, and preventative care by any licensed provider. It also wants to move to a single-payer health care system and move health care plans from a fee for service model to an evidence-based service model. It would allow importation and re-importation of Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription drugs from other countries by individuals, businesses, and governments.

Human rights

The party wants to ban the death penalty in the state and holds a pro-choice view on reproductive health and abortion. The party also wishes to repeal the ban on same sex marriages Oregon Ballot Measure 36 (2004) and allow same-sex couples the right to marry.


The party would provide for all Oregon public education, restore lower tuition, and vital programs in public higher education. It would also fund and expand a federal and state scholarship grants so that all students from all backgrounds can attain a higher education. It supports a general fund revenue stream for higher education. Expand access to internet services to promote flexible scheduling and specialized education.

Election reform

The party would

  • require voter verified paper ballots for all federal elections;
  • increase transparency and accountability for all contributions,
  • amend the constitution to prohibit all corporate financial contributions to political campaigns;*
  • provide public funds for campaigns at all levels;
  • develop a Federal Fairness Doctrine to counter bias in the media; and
  • supply the public with information on all candidates.

Public safety

The party would

  • provide improved facilities for individuals with mental illness and reduce law enforcement contacts/incarcerations of those persons;
  • repeal all parts of the USA PATRIOT Act that infringe on constitutional rights;
  • provide additional law enforcement officer training to reduce incidents of excessive force;
  • repeal parts of No Child Left Behind specifically acts that allow military recruiters to have access to private information of students, and the military's ability to be in the school;
  • create a state "Bank of Oregon" modeled on the state Bank of North Dakota;
  • pass a state-level Paid Family Leave Act;
  • oppose private prisons;
  • permanently ban offshore oil drilling along the West Coast; and
  • remove American military forces (troops and bases) from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Current elected officials

Members of Congress

Of the seven delegates Oregon sends to the United States Congress, six of them are Democrats.

U.S. Senate

Since 2009, Democrats have held both of Oregon's seats in the U.S. Senate:

U.S. House of Representatives

Democrats hold 4 of the 5 seats Oregon is apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives following the 2010 Census:

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Statewide offices

Democrats hold all four of the five statewide elected offices in Oregon:

Oregon State Legislature

District Home Senator Party
3 Ashland Alan C. Bates Democratic
4 Lane Floyd Prozanski Democratic
5 Coos Bay Arnie Roblan Democratic
6 Springfield Lee Beyer Democratic
7 Eugene Chris Edwards Democratic
11 Salem Peter Courtney Democratic
14 Beaverton Mark Hass Democratic
16 Scappoose Betsy Johnson Democratic
17 Multnomah County Elizabeth Steiner Hayward Democratic
18 Portland Ginny Burdick Democratic
19 Tualatin Richard Devlin Democratic
21 Portland Diane Rosenbaum Democratic
22 Chip Shields Democratic
23 Michael Dembrow[7] Democratic
24 Rod Monroe Democratic
25 Gresham Laurie Monnes Anderson Democratic


District Home Representative Party
5 Ashland Peter Buckley Democratic
8 Eugene Paul Holvey Democratic
9 Coos Bay Caddy McKeown Democratic
10 Newport David Gomberg Democratic
11 Lane County Phil Barnhart Democratic
12 Springfield John Lively Democratic
13 Eugene Nancy Nathanson Democratic
14 Val Hoyle Democratic
16 Corvallis Sara Gelser Democratic
21 Salem Brian L. Clem Democratic
22 Woodburn Betty Komp Democratic
27 Washington Co. Tobias Read Democratic
28 Aloha Jeff Barker Democratic
29 Hillsboro Ben Unger Democratic
30 Joe Gallegos Democratic
31 Clatskanie Brad Witt Democratic
32 Cannon Beach Deborah Boone Democratic
33 Portland Mitch Greenlick Democratic
34 Washington Co. Chris Harker Democratic
35 Tigard Margaret Doherty Democratic
36 Portland Jennifer Williamson Democratic
38 Lake Oswego Chris Garrett Democratic
40 Gladstone Brent Barton Democratic
41 Milwaukie Carolyn Tomei Democratic
42 Portland Jules Bailey Democratic
43 Lew Frederick Democratic
44 Tina Kotek Democratic
45 Vacant[9] Democratic
46 Alissa Keny-Guyer Democratic
47 Jessica Vega Pederson Democratic
48 Happy Valley Jeff Reardon Democratic
49 Troutdale Chris Gorsek Democratic
50 Gresham Greg Matthews Democratic
51 Clackamas Shemia Fagan Democratic

Recent elections

2006 elections

Going into the 2006 elections, Democrats occupied all four of the state's partisan executive offices and held a majority in the Oregon State Senate, but were in the minority in the Oregon House of Representatives. Of the statewide office-holders, only Governor Ted Kulongoski was up for re-election. Not only was he successful in that bid, but Democrats were elected to a slim majority in the House. All four of Oregon's Democratic United States House representatives were re-elected.

2008 elections

In the 2008 elections, Democrats gained a three-fifths majority in the state house and maintained the same majority in the senate despite losing a seat to the Republicans. This majority in both chambers of the Oregon Legislative Assembly is needed to pass bills that raise revenue, as required by Article IV §25 of the state constitution. Democrats maintained control of all state partisan executive offices. They held all four of Oregon's five federal congressional seats, including a retiring Democrat's seat, and unseated Oregon's Republican senator, the only one from the West Coast and the only Republican occupying an office representing the whole of Oregon.

2010 elections

In 2010 the Democrats kept the Governorship in a close election decided by the slimmest of margins. Former 2-term governor John Kitzhaber defeated Republican Chris Dudley by a mere 14,910 votes. US Senator Ron Wyden kept his senate seat, handily beating Jim Huffman 57% to 39%. The Democratic Party of Oregon also kept all four of their previously held congressional seats in the U.S House of Representatives [10]


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Democrats in the Oregon Territory first organized as a political party by holding a convention on July 4, 1851, at which a central committee was chosen and James Nesmith was made chairman.[11]

The party's first convention post-statehood was held in Salem on April 20, 1859. Bitterly divided over the issue of slavery,[12] the convention nominated Lansing Stout, supported by pro-slavery factions led by Joseph Lane,[13] for the United States House of Representatives over incumbent Democrat La Fayette Grover. Democratic control of the state legislature between 1859 and 1879 resulted in the selection of eight Democrats as US senators, and only three Republicans were chosen.[3] Beginning in the 1880s the Democrats became the minority party when immigrants from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and foreign countries moving over to Oregon chose the Republican Party as their main party.[3] Between 1900 and 1932 the Republicans enjoyed a two-one ratio over the Democrats, and sometimes three-one. There was no real changed even during the Franklin D. Roosevelt years where the Republican registration never dipped below 50% throughout the state.[3] This remained the case until the boom in employment caused by World War II. This resulted in a drastic increase in Oregon population, which benefited the Democratic party. Workers that came in provided a base to rebuild the Democratic Party.[3]

Democratic reform

With the start of the 1880s the Democrats had become the minority, and that stayed that way, for the most part, until the start of World War II. During those years however there were a few blips such as 1890 that had the Democrats back on the political map. The adoption of the direct primary gave the Democrats new forms of institutional democracy which lead the way for political advancement.[3] The people of Oregon had a new way of thinking about politics and the Democrats started to use the reform-minded mentality that existed in some of the populous to overturn the Republican control of state politics.[3]

The Democrats first started to make alliances with third parties in the 1890s but then moved on to market themselves as a partisan organization.[3] The governor at the time, Sylvester Pennoyer, gathered a coalition with a start-up party called the Union Party and independent Republicans from Portland.[3] Pennoyer won his re-election bid and this gave Democrats the confidence they were looking for to beat the Republicans, but the Republicans swept the rest of the state with the exception of a couple of seats in the state legislature.[3] Pennoyer warned both parties of a third party rising due to lack of acknowledgment of political problems that faced the nation. He was correct as the People's Party emerged in Omaha. Pennoyer was agitated with the platforms of both parties that he left and joined the Populists.[3] This created a split in the party between people who wanted to follow Pennoyer to the People's Party and the people who wanted to stay as Democrats.

The refusal of the People's Party to join forces with the Democratic Party led to easy elections for Republicans in the years to come. In 1896 factionalism between these parties led the Republicans carrying Oregon in the Presidential and Congressional elections. State legislature elections resulted in the Populist leading the Democrats in elected members 18-7.[3] The only meaningful victory that the Democrats could look to was that of Sylvester Pennoyer, who returned to the Democratic ticket and won the election for mayor, being supported by the Democrats and Populists together.[3] The only other Democratic success was that the people of Oregon responded to the call to reform as the Democrats took 12 counties from the Republicans in that presidential election.[3]

The Great Depression and the re-emergence of the Democrats

As the Great Depression struck the nation in the 1930s the Oregon Democrats saw this as an opportunity to gain prominence once again. The people of the state reacted very strongly against the Republican leadership that was in power during the economic collapse that spark the depression. Party officials believed that this collapse finally gave the party a concrete issue and they also believed that they would be able to make Oregon a two-party state once again.[3] The state committee organized meetings between 1930 and 1932 to plan precinct reorganization throughout the state, and shortly after the spike in meetings, a "Young Democratic League" was formed with an active membership of 2,500 members and they were scattered throughout all of the counties of Oregon.[3] This also ended the avoidance by candidates of the Democratic label as the public saw the Republicans as responsible for the collapse, so the Democrats put themselves out as the party of new ideas.[3] They viewed the label of Democrat as an advantage, as the national Democratic party saw a rise in popularity. As the Oregon Democrats ran in tandem with Roosevelt in the Presidential election, they saw instant results, the Democrats gained 10 seats the state legislature, going from 7 to 17 and gaining majority in a 30-seat legislature, and in the state senate going from 1 seat to 8, giving an even split in the state senate.[3] These were not the biggest successes for Oregon Democrats however, Charles H. Martin won reelection in the Third Congressional District and Walter Pierce won the Second Congressional District for the first time in Oregon history.[3] In the 1930s, there was a drastic increase in voter registration for the Democrats, whose numbers rise from 30 percent of state registered voters to 48%, most of this was because of support for FDR's "New Deal".[3] Roosevelt was solid in Oregon for his four election victories, never once losing the state, but the same could not be said for state Democrats. They were never able to win a senate seat and after the initial Roosevelt election year; the state Democrats did not gain any more congressional seats that were significant.[3]

The fall of the Democrats

The rise of the Democrats was short-lived during this period and the fall can be attributed to the gubernatorial election of former congress member, Democrat Charles H. Martin. Martin ran and won the Governorship as a "champion" of the "New Deal" brought to fruition by Roosevelt.[3] After the election it became clear that Martin did not support the President or his "New Deal" and this sparked a war between the Democratic state legislature and Martin. He received most of his troubles from the Democrats and gained support from Republicans.[3] Martin was all but kicked out of the Democratic Party as many of his former supporters stated that they would no longer support him if he ran for Governorship again. Despite this Martin declared that he would run again for Governor because of promised support from Republicans. Martin lost his reelection bid in the primary to Democrat State Senator Henry Hess. This ended up splitting the party once again and Hess lost the general election for Governor. Martin endorsed many Republicans that ran against incumbent Democrats, leading to the loss of majority in both the State House and Senate, plus the loss of the Third Congressional district.[3]

Post World War II rebuilding of the party

After the war, there was no trace of a Democratic Party anywhere in Oregon, so a reorganization effort was started. The biggest triumph in the initial rebuilding was when Monroe Sweetland ran as a candidate for National Committeeman, and then won the seat in the 1948 primaries. Sweetland sought to gain connections to the Harry S. Truman administration and eventually succeeded in his goal.[3] This resulted in the now upstart Democratic presence in Oregon receiving monetary contributions from Democratic figures. This was the one real success in the 1948 election however as the Democrats in the state failed to come up with viable strong candidates for office.[3] Once Sweetland saw this, he decided to launch strong campaigns for Truman in the state, that also was unsuccessful as Dewey carried the state, but not the presidency. They did however elect some Democrats to smaller positions in the state legislature.[3] There was no apparent hope for the Democrats until the following election year 1950, when Democrats saw an increase and surpassing of Democratic registration over the Republicans. The 1950 election was as big a disaster as the 1948 election as the Democrats still won no prominent seats in the state, but in 1952 the Democrats ended up seizing the Attorney General Position from the Republicans, which was seen as a major victory for the Democrats of the state.[3] 1954 was the first time in a long time that Democrats had a sound hold on Oregon Politics, they saw an increase in State Legislature seats, increasing from 11 to 25 and in the Senate increasing from 4 to 6. They also won the first US Senatorial election in 40 years when Richard Neuberger defeated Republican incumbent Guy Cordon, and Edith Green captured Third Congressional District in an open-seat race against future governor Tom McCall.[3] Finally, in 1956 it was clear that the Democrats were back in power when they took 3 of 4 races for US Representative, a reelection of the Attorney General, a gain of control over the State Legislature, and a victory for Governor of Oregon.[3]

See also


  1. "Contact Us." Democratic Party of Oregon. Retrieved on May 13, 2010.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 3.27 3.28 3.29 History of the Democratic Party in Oregon, 1900-1956, Burton, Robert E.
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  11. Charles Henry Carey, History of Oregon: Volume 1. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Co., 1920; pg. 520.
  12. Carey, History of Oregon: Volume 1, pp. 630–631.
  13. Carey, History of Oregon: Volume 1, pg. 631.

Further reading

  • Robert E. Burton, Democrats of Oregon: the Pattern of the Minority Politics, 1900-1956. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon Press, 1970.

External links