On Monday, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR2) announced that after serving as a member of Congress in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District for over 20 years, he will not be running for re-election in 2020, and will not run for any other office. It seems that for Oregonians on the eastern side of the state, the fury of national politicking just came home to roost. We can expect the 2020 election to be even more intense now, with the question of who will live in the White House—as well as who will represent roughly 2/3rds of the land mass of Oregon in Congress—put before us.
As we look back at Walden's time as our elected representative in the U.S. House, we can't say we're sad to see him go. Unlike our U.S. Senators, who make themselves available and readily announce their presence when they come to Central Oregon, Walden has been like a secretive ship in the night. Just this month, we reached out to Rep. Walden to ask his take on a few issues. We received a form email thank-you note, but, in spite of repeated attempts to reach both his email and his staff via phone, we received nothing else. The same week, we discovered he had actually been in Central Oregon during that time, meeting with private groups zhas been Walden's m.o.: Giving credence to the people with whom he agrees; ignoring the rest.
This is not the type of representation this vast swath of Oregon deserves—not least of all because, in spite of popular opinion, this portion of the state, mostly east of the Cascades, is not as red as some would have you believe. Oregon's 2nd Congressional District is a very mixed bag, politically, and its voters deserve a representative who aims to represent them all.
According to September voting rolls reported by Oregon's Secretary of State, the 2nd District includes 143,353 registered Democrats, 189,893 Republicans and 197,584 non-affiliated voters. Read that again. While it's true that the number of registered Republicans outnumbers Democrats by 46,540, the number of non-affiliated voters outnumbers each of them handily. Anyone aiming to represent this district in the coming years will do well to remember those numbers. There are far too many voters who haven't claimed allegiance to any party, and they deserve representation. (If any voter statistics were a case for changing Oregon's primary system to one that allows non-affiliated voters to weigh in without registering with a party, the 2nd Congressional District would be one.)
As this Congressional race heats up, you can expect Deschutes County to be a "battleground county." This is where voters are very nearly split evenly between Democrats, Republicans and non-affiliated voters, and also where Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner bested Walden in the 2018 House race—the first time Walden lost the county during his time as Congressman. It's highly likely that Deschutes County was on Walden's mind when he told Politico recently that his district "sure as heck ain't getting any redder."
Walden may have looked to the 2018 election as a sign that his prospects would be even tougher in the coming election. Add in the fact that the current president—also a Republican—is facing impeachment proceedings and it's not terribly shocking that Walden is looking for the exit. While Walden cannot be construed as a party-line apologist for the president, he has certainly not shown the type of non-partisan, anti-corruption thoughtfulness we would like to see from all Republican lawmakers right now. It is not unreasonable to ask that reasonable Republicans come out publicly against the solicitation of foreign interference in our elections. Our very democracy is at stake, and that should matter more to Republicans than keeping a cad in the White House.
Whoever wins the election in the 2nd Congressional District, we hope they remember that. Oregonians deserve a reasonable statesperson who doesn't play favorites or sides, and who is willing to call a spade a spade, in spite of party.
In the year to come, as Walden serves out the rest of his final term, we'd like to see that from him as well. But based on his history, we won't hold our breath.
Visit bendsource.com for the latest on who's already announced intention to run for the seat vacated by Walden.