Voters in Douglas County didn’t get their way in the governor’s race, U.S. congressional election and all but one statewide measure.
The strongly conservative voter base in the county has gotten used to Oregon’s liberal population centers swaying statewide elections, according to Fred Dayton, the chair of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee. He said many Republican voters are discouraged from voting because they think their votes won’t matter. But Dayton is satisfied with the success of the party on the local level.
Republican candidate for governor, Knute Buehler, lost to incumbent Gov. Kate Brown 49.9 to 43.8 percent. Buehler won Douglas County 66.1 to 23.9 percent, however. Voters in Douglas County contributed 2.8 percent of the total votes for governor statewide.
Additionally, the Republican candidate for Oregon’s fourth U.S. congressional district, Art Robinson, lost to incumbent Peter DeFazio 41 to 55.9 percent. Robinson won Douglas County 58.5 to 38.6. Voters in Douglas County contributed 13 percent of the total votes for the seat statewide. This was Robinson’s fifth unsuccessful attempt at defeating DeFazio.
Measure 102, which allows local bonds for financing affordable housing with nongovernmental entities, passed with 56.7 percent of the vote statewide. In Douglas County, just 42.2 percent of voters supported the measure. Voters in Douglas County contributed 2.7 percent of the total votes for each of the statewide measures.
Voters statewide struck down Measure 103, which prohibits taxes and fees based on transactions for groceries, with 57.4 percent of the vote. In Douglas County, just 41.8 percent of voters opposed the measure.
Voters statewide struck down Measure 104, which expands (beyond taxes) application of requirement that three-fifths legislative majority approve bills raising revenue, with 65.3 percent of the vote. In Douglas County, voters also opposed the measure with 54.4 percent of the vote.
Voters statewide struck down Measure 105, which repeals Oregon’s sanctuary state law, with 63.3 percent of the vote. In Douglas County, 45.4 percent of voters opposed the measure.
Voters statewide struck down Measure 106, which prohibits spending public funds for abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger, with 64.5 percent of the vote. In Douglas County, 46.5 percent of voters opposed the measure.
Dayton recalls the last time Oregon elected a Republican governor, Victor Atiyeh, who served as governor from 1979 to 1987. Dayton said he has been involved in Republican politics in Douglas County for 44 years.
He has watched the politics of the state gradually change over the years.
“The voters who have visited with me would tell you that they’re disappointed and would tell you it’s same old, same old,” Dayton said. “If we got every Republican in Douglas County to vote, it would not change the outcome on the statewide issues. It makes it more difficult to get the voter turnout because people will say, ‘Well, what difference does it make.’”
Dayton said that Douglas County’s Second Amendment Protection Ordinance, which prohibits local resources being used to enforce additional gun restrictions and passed with 73.8 percent of the vote, perfectly exemplifies how people in Douglas County feel toward the more liberal majorities in the state.
“People view this as a fundamental right and they don’t want the state interfering with it,” Dayton said.
He said rural voters will continue to try and vote locally in a way they think will rebuke legislative actions at the state and federal level.
There were over 50 people coming and going between the Douglas County Republican headquarters and election watch parties on Jackson Street in Roseburg on election night, according to Dayton.
“That’s indicative of a real interest in local politics,” Dayton said. “They go, ‘Oh well, the state did it to us again, but we will come back and work on our people from Douglas County.’”
He said he and other Republican voters in the area take pride in their conservative state legislators. State Reps. Cedric Hayden and Gary Leif of Roseburg are both Republicans. State Sen. Dallas Heard of Roseburg is also a Republican.
With the Democrats’ gains in both state chambers of Congress this election, they now have a three-fifths super majorities, which may make it easier for them to pass legislation that had been previously held up. They may look to pass tax legislation or bills that address climate change.
This year, voters were more hopeful about Knute Buehler’s chances, Dayton said. But he said the outcome of the race is more evidence that conservative voters in the area will need to focus their efforts locally to make progress on the issues they’re concerned about.