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Here Are 7 Big Things That Could Change Everything for Oregon in 2020
Presidential contenders, cigarette taxes and baseball teams, oh my!
It doesn’t take much of a crystal ball to predict that the biggest news story of 2020 will be the presidential election, come what may. (It’s hard to imagine that the stakes could possibly be any higher.)
But what else will grab our attention in 2020? Here’s our wildly predictive, totally unscientific, nevertheless pretty sound (if we do say so ourselves) call-out of the Oregon-centric stories that will have you talking in the year ahead.
- Maybe you’ve heard a little bit about the presidential race? Oregon is traditionally late to the party, with a presidential primary set for May 16, a full three months after Iowa and New Hampshire get to set things in motion. Barring pigs with wings and snow in July, President Trump will be the GOP nominee, but the Democratic race could still be very much in play by May, which means Oregon could get its share of visits from top-tier candidates chasing delegates. The state hasn’t been relevant in a Democratic presidential primary since the great Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton showdown of 2008. Political junkies who can’t bear to wait that long should take heart: Neighboring Washington state moved up its primary to March 10, just one week after Super Tuesday. Candidates who want that Vancouver vote should start flooding the Portland airwaves with advertisements any day now.
- Even if the Biden vs. Bernie vs. Warren vs. Buttiegieg vs. everyone else conundrum is wrapped up by our primary, there are still plenty of juicy storylines in the May primary election, from a Secretary of State race featuring virtually every Democrat who has ever set foot in the state Capitol to the battle to succeed Greg Walden in Congress, aka a showdown between three Republicans all vying to talk up their conservative credentials. The exact opposite will be the case in the Portland mayoral race, where incumbent Ted Wheeler is fighting off challengers from the left in his attempt to be the city’s first two-term mayor since the days of Vera Katz.
- But first, policy! Specifically, the Oregon legislature reconvenes in just four short weeks for a monthlong special session intended to balance budgets and troubleshoot any problems that have cropped up since last summer’s legislative wrap-up. Democrats, who control both chambers and the governor’s seat, have vowed to take another run at passing a cap-and-trade bill that would require industrial polluters to pay for greenhouse gases they emit, the climate justice issue that sent Republicans running to safe houses in Idaho rather than provide a quorum and take a vote last June. If the issue gets contentious again, prepare for another Case of the Missing GOP.
- Oregonians love to be ahead of the curve, so what does it say about us that we are the only state in the nation that allows criminals to be convicted (except for murder) with non-unanimous verdicts? That dubious distinction could fall this year when the US Supreme Court issues its ruling in Ramos v. Louisiana, in which the accused was convicted of murder by a 10-2 ruling. Of note: Louisiana voters have since changed the state’s policy, making Oregon the cheese standing alone on this particular topic. Of note, part 2: critics of non-unanimous juries say they are a relic of a pre-Civil Right era, used to make it easier to convict defendants of color. Oregon’s law dates to 1934, at the height of the Klu Klux Klan’s influence in the state. If the Supreme Court fails to strike down non-unanimous verdicts, look for the issue to surface at the ballot box in November, alongside…
- The cigarette tax, back for a return engagement after being among the most expensive ballot measures in Oregon’s history in 2007, when the tobacco industry spent a whopping $12.1 million to beat back a proposal, about three times as much as was raised by proponents. This time around, the state legislature is backing a $2 per pack increase—along with a brand-new tax on e-cigarettes—with the money earmarked for the Oregon Health Plan.
- Let’s end on a lighter note, with some sportsball. Could 2020 be the year that Portland finally makes real progress in the years-long quest to acquire a major league baseball team? The investors behind the Portland Diamond Project have said they’d love to see a team up and running in Portland by April of 2023, but that requires a stadium and a team, two key factors that thus far, Portland does not have. What they do have is a high-profile group of investors that includes Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and an fancy schematic of a new stadium that would be built at a Northwest Portland marine cargo terminal. Will there be more? Only time will tell—so bring it on, 2020.