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Red Dawn

Willamette Week, July 12, 2006 – Nigel Jaquiss wrote,
Forget about blue Oregon: The Republicans are taking over.

The May primary election hit Kevin Looper like a head-butt. Looper, 36, is a genial, grizzly-sized political consultant who moved to Portland six years ago and is now perhaps the state's top voter-turnout guru. If you want to know how often the average unregistered slacker changes addresses, opens his mail or is likely to be home and lucid enough to sign a voter registration card, Looper is your man. Looper is also a partisan. A big-D Democrat who works for the union-backed group Our Oregon. The Nebraska native says Oregon's progressive reputation—and its mountains—are why he moved here.

"Oregon is the last great place in this country," Looper says. "And I want to see it stay that way."

But what Looper learned from the May primary extinguished his habitual smile. Most of us just saw a tepid election with low turnout, especially among young voters. Looper saw confirmation of something far more profound: a reliably blue state on the verge of turning red.

That's right. Oregon, where only one of eight statewide elected officials, Sen. Gordon Smith, is a Republican. Oregon, where Democrats have controlled the governor's mansion since 1986 and where every Democratic presidential candidate since then has carried the state.

First state with a bottle bill, first with an all-public coastline, first with an urban growth boundary, first with vote-by-mail, first with physician-assisted suicide—that Oregon is unmistakably losing its Democratic majority, Looper says. Continued...

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