Written by Sydney Beckham

In the 2022 Midterms, Oregon hosted four highly competitive races. Although the Beaver State is typically Democrat-leaning, there were three U.S House seats deemed as competitive races, according to FiveThirtyEight, along with a competitive gubernatorial race. Oregon’s 4th, 5th, and 6th Congressional Districts saw millions in advertisement spending from candidates and issue groups. The gubernatorial race also saw millions spent on political ad spending, largely from the three candidates in the general election.

            Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer won and flipped Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, while Democrats Val Hoyle and Andrea Salinas won in OR 04 and OR 06. In Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, Republicans outspent Democrats by more than $1M. In OR CD-04 and OR CD-06, Democrats outspent Republicans. OR 04 saw the least amount of political ad spending of the three districts, as most advertising was made up by the candidates, Val Hoyle (D) and Alek Skarlatos (R).  Issue groups including DCCC, Congressional Leadership Fund, and House Majority PAC spent more money in both OR 05 and OR 06.

a bar chart showing political ad spending across Oregon Congressional District, 6, 5 and 3.

Oregon’s 6th Congressional District was one of seven new U.S. House Districts created after the 2020 Census. It was considered a toss-up race.  The race saw over $30M spent in total, including over $12M during the general election. During the general, the Salinas campaign and Democrat groups made up 62% of total political ad spending. The race was the most expensive House race in Oregon during the 2022 Midterms, seeing over half of total House spending in the state.  Salinas’ campaign spent $1.67M, while Mike Erickson spent $1.73M. The NRCC and Erickson coordinated buy spent an additional $1.56M. The DCCC and Salinas coordinated buy spent only $320K. Three issue groups spent nearly $6M on advertisements during the general. Democrat groups House Majority PAC ($3.2M) and DCCC ($1.86M) were the top two spending groups. Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican PAC, spent $1.26M supporting Mike Erickson;s candidacy. Advertisement messaging from both House Majority PAC and DCCC focused on Erickson’s anti-abortion hypocrisy and his DUI arrest in 2016. Congressional Leadership Fund’s ads were focused on taxation and Salinas’s voting record during her time in the Oregon Legislature.

Two donut charts showing political ad spending broken up between issue group and candidate in Oregon CD-6

The Oregon Gubernatorial race was surprisingly close between Tina Kotek (D) and Christine Drazan (R). According to polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight, Drazan was ahead of Kotek by a few percentage points in October. Despite speculation of a possible Republican win in Oregon’s highest office, Kotek was eventually declared winner by over 66,000 votes. The general election saw over $42M in ad spending. Tina Kotek was the top spender with $16.6M. Christine Drazan spent $15.3M, and Betsy Johnson, an Independent candidate, spent $9.8M. There was minimal spending from issue groups in the race. Oregon League of Conservation Voters and Hold Politicians Accountable PAC both spent $250K supporting Kotek. Ad messaging for this race highlighted crime, inflation, abortion, and the housing crisis in Portland. Interestingly, both Kotek and Drazan ran negative ads mentioning the current term-limited Democrat Governor, Kate Brown. Ads from Kotek highlighted the homelessness issue and how Brown did “nothing”. Drazan’s ads loop Brown, Kotek, and Betsy Johnson together, claiming they were all “driving Brown’s agenda down the wrong path”.

a bar chart showing political ad spending in Oregon's gubernatorial election

Although the “Red Wave” did not hit Oregon, Republican candidates turned races that Democrats have historically dominated to become competitive.  Republicans in the House gained a seat from Oregon’s 5th Congressional District and gained overall traction in the Governor race. Democrats in the Oregon Legislature also lost their supermajority. The gubernatorial race and OR 04, 05, and 06 each saw millions in ad spending across Oregon airwaves. Democrats outspending Republicans in three of the races, only falling short in OR 05. While 2022 was overall a success for Oregon Democrats, the 2022 Midterms demonstrated that the GOP may be gaining ground and could continue to make Oregon races more competitive in the future.

For further analysis on Congressional tossup races, read our blog about the 33 tossup elections this election cycle.

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