Can kumbaya survive the blue wave?

Democrats dominate in Oregon, but Jackson County reverts to red

Some random thoughts on Tuesday's election results:

Lost in the shuffle: Almost overlooked amid the frenzy of the presidential and U.S. Senate races was the recapturing of the state House by Oregon Democrats. That means the D's now have control of the House, the Senate and the governor's office. Be afraid, conservatives, be very afraid.

Actually, in brief conversations with local Democrats, they seem to have little appetite for ramming through one-sided measures that would wreck the kumbaya spirit of the recent sessions, when the House was split 30-30 and both sides recognized that compromise was inescapable.

However, any GOP hopes of making big changes in areas such as land-use planning, public employee retirements or business regulation will likely spend at least the next two years gathering dust in a remote broom closet somewhere in the bowels of the Capitol building.

Beyond purple: In 2008 Jackson County was the only county south of Lane in which Barack Obama won the popular vote, albeit by only the narrowest of margins, 47 votes out of 101,047 votes cast. That final outcome took a few weeks to determine, although at the time it mattered little to anyone except political watchers.

There was no such cliffhanger this time. President Obama easily kept his seat in the Electoral College, 303 to 206, (still waiting for Florida) and won the popular count nationally by about 2.8 million votes. But Jackson County put away the purple crayon and returned to its red roots, supporting Mitt Romney 50.6 percent to 45.7 percent.

Still, among the nearly 90,000 voters who cast their lot with one or the other, there was only about a 4,600 gap. So maybe our crayon box can't be reduced just yet to only primary colors.

PAC this in your bag: While one council race remains too close to call, Ashland voters seem to be of two minds when it comes to the liberal vs. moderate divide. A group of council candidates, supported by the Chamber and various business people (among others), defeated two liberals and was narrowly leading in a third race. Meanwhile, on the mayoral ticket, incumbent John Stromberg was an easy winner, despite being markedly more liberal than his opponent, Alan DeBoer.

Could it be the PAC effect? The moderates were backed by a local PAC whose campaign material prompted a barrage of criticism.

But perhaps the PAC achieved its goals: It's notable that along with the wins for the moderates, the more centrist candidate in the mayor's race, DeBoer, asked the PAC not to support him. And he lost.

Then again, maybe the PAC-supported candidates would have won more easily without the divisive issue. And it's worth noting that one of the moderate winners, Rich Rosenthal, benefited from having the vote split among two other candidates, whose combined totals easily exceeded his.

Doing the math: It's called the Elections Division, but it wasn't long division Tuesday night in Jackson County, where workers in the County Clerk's Office had the vast majority of ballots tabulated and results distributed by shortly after 8 p.m. There would be several more updates, the second at 10:24 p.m., but things appeared to go smoothly, which made a lot of reporters — print, broadcast and Web alike — very happy.

A new machine in the office apparently worked well, but we prefer to give the credit to County Clerk Chris Walker, elections program manager Donna Connor and their capable staff. Well done!


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