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Farthest left on Left Coast? That's right, it's Oregon

Oregon’s reputation as one of the most liberal states in the country was reinforced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s victory over his Republican challenger in the general election. Merkley easily defeated Monica Wehby by a margin of 55 percent to 38 percent, with minor-party candidates picking up the rest.

Merkley’s victory gave Democrats one of the rare bright spots in an otherwise dismal election night. Nationwide, incumbent Republican senators won all their re-election fights, and the GOP picked up eight Democratic seats, including Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. A runoff election is scheduled in Louisiana on Dec. 6.

Merkley’s win is tempered by the fact that Republicans now control both houses of Congress — the Senate for the first time time since 2006 — reducing him and senior Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden to minority status. But it cements Oregon’s reputation as the farthest left state on the Left Coast.

You need a map to follow this political trail

Out-of-state billionaire Michael Bloomberg was both lambasted and embraced in the general election.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, donated $1.9 million to pass Ballot Measure 90, which would have created an open primary system. it was overwhelmingly defeated after being attacked by a coalition that included virtually all political parties in the state as a ploy by rich corporations to influence future elections.

But a gun control group supported by Bloomberg also aligned itself with Democrats. Everytown for Gun Safety gave $250,000 to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. It also gave $75,000 to Democatic candidate Chuck Riley, who defeated Republican state Sen. Bruce Starr of Hillsboro, after accusing him of being supported by corporate interests.

And it contributed $75,000 to the Oregon Priorities PAC, which gave $50,000 to the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, which supported Riley.

So Bloomberg was attacked as a corporate fat cat for supporting Measure 90 while supporting Democrats who criticized their opponents for being in the pocket of corporate fat cats. Go figure.

Some don’t vote no matter how easy it is

Vote by mail was supposed to boost turnout in Oregon by making it so easy to mark and return ballots. Even so, Oregon did not have the highest turnout rate in the nation in the 2014 general election, even with hotly contested candidates and measures on the ballot.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, only 52 percent of eligible voters returned their ballot by Nov. 4. That’s only good enough for fifth place. Beating Oregon was Maine at 59.3 percent, Wisconsin at 56.9 percent, Alaska at 55.3 percent, and Colorado at 53 percent. Minnesota was close behind us at 51.3 percent. The calculations are a percentage of the voter-eligible population, whether they are registered to vote or not.

The project is operated by Michael McDonald, an associate political science professor at the University of Florida. Its mission is to provide timely and accurate election statistics, electoral law updates, research reports, and other useful information regarding the American electoral system. The website is electproject.org.

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