Women Secure Multiple Nominations in Oregon, But Few Gains Likely in November

Final votes were counted yesterday in Oregon’s congressional primary. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ (CAWP) Election Watch.

Among the most notable results for women:

  • Both incumbent women running in Oregon’s congressional and statewide executive primaries – U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D, OR-01) and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) – will be on the ballot this fall and are favored to win re-election. 
  • Republican women won nominations for the U.S. Senate and 2 of 5 U.S. House districts in Oregon. They will challenge incumbents who are favored to win re-election in each of these contests in the fall.
  • In the open seat contest for Secretary of State, current State Senator Kim Thatcher secured the Republican nomination and current State Senator Shemia Fagan is competing in a Democratic primary that remains too close to call. Current Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) is not running for re-election.

U.S. Senate

The last, and only, woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from Oregon was Maurine Brown Neuberger (D), who held office from 1960 to 1967. This year, Jo Rae Perkins (R) won the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley (D) – who was unopposed in the Democratic primary – in a contest currently rated as "Solid Democratic" by Cook Political Report. Perkins was the only woman running in the four-person Republican primary. If elected, she would be the first Republican woman senator from Oregon and the first woman senator in more than 5 decades.

U.S. House

Women candidates secured 4 of 10 (40%) major-party nominations for U.S. House seats decided in Oregon on May 19th. Women are 2 of 5 (40%) Democratic nominees and 2 of 5 (40%) Republican nominees for the U.S. House in Oregon. 5 (3D, 2R) women candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Incumbent Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D) – who is currently the only woman in Oregon’s five-member delegation to the U.S. House – defeated two challengers, both women, in the Democratic primary. She is strongly favored to win re-election this fall.
  • Alex Spenser (D) won the Democratic nomination in Oregon’s 2nd congressional district, home to the only open seat contest for the U.S. House in Oregon this year. She will run in a general election contest that strongly favors the Republican nominee according to Cook Political Report’s current ratings.
  • Both Republican women nominees will challenge Democratic incumbents this fall in races currently rated as "Solid Democratic" by Cook Political Report.
    • Joanna Harbour (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Earl Blumenaeur (D) in Oregon’s 3rd congressional district.
    • Amy Courser (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Kurt Schrader (D) in Oregon’s 5th congressional district.

Amy Courser (R, OR-05) identifies as multi-racial, both Native American and White. Oregon has never sent a woman of color to Congress.

Statewide Elected Executive Office

Women are currently 4 (2D, 1R, 1NP) of 5 statewide elected executive officials in Oregon. Just 3 of those offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Treasurer – are up for election in 2020.

  • Incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) did not run for re-election. She was appointed by Governor Kate Brown in 2019 upon the condition that she would not run for a full term.

This year, women are 2 of 5 (40%) major-party nominees already selected for statewide elected executive offices in Oregon, including 1 of 2 (50%) Democrats and 1 of 3 (33.3%) Republicans. 1 (1D) woman candidates was unsuccessful in her primary bid for statewide elected executive office and another - State Senator Shemia Fagan (D) - remains in the Democratic primary race for Secretary of State, which is too close to call.

  • Incumbent Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) was uncontested in the Democratic primary and will compete for re-election this fall. She has served since 2012.
  • Kim Thatcher (R), who is currently a state senator, won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State. State Senator Shemia Fagan is competing in the Democratic primary that remains too close to call. If Fagan is victorious, a woman will be all but assured to be elected Secretary of State. 

Both women major-party nominees for the statewide elected executive offices in Oregon, as well as Senator Fagan, are White women. Just 1 (1NP) woman of color – Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo (2003-2012) – has ever served in statewide elected executive office in Oregon.

For primary results summaries from other states and full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, and historical comparisons, see CAWP’s Election Watch.