Progressives in Oregon's 48th district campaigned door-to-door over the weekend in an effort to unseat controversial Democrat and five-term incumbent Mike Schaufler. With Oregon's lower legislative chamber split evenly between Democrats and Republicans -- Schaufler often crossed the aisle to vote with conservatives, particularly on fiscal issues -- the election could have significant implications for the Oregon state legislature.
Schaufler was the lone Democrat to side with Republicans in blocking action on a key health insurance bill. He was also the only Democrat to vote against raising taxes on corporations and top income earners in 2009, and is reportedly skeptical on environmental issues.
That didn't sit well with liberal groups like MoveOn.org and the Working Families Party, who launched a get-out-the-vote effort over the weekend on behalf of progressive challenger Jeff Reardon, a retired teacher who is slated to face Schaufler in Tuesday’s primary.
The Oregonian's editorial board endorsed Reardon.
"It's unusual for a legislator to call for a fellow caucus member's defeat in a primary," the editors wrote. "It's even more unusual for 10 legislators of the same party to endorse a legislator's opponent, and yet 10 Democratic legislators have endorsed teacher Jeff Reardon against five-term incumbent Mike Schaufler in District 48.
"Democratic voters in the district should listen. At this point, there is good reason to think that challenger Reardon could represent the Happy Valley district more effectively in Salem, and in the House Democratic caucus."
Schaufler touched another nerve with Democratic critics when he reported receiving $3,000 from Koch Industries, the first time the group had given money to a Democratic candidate for office west of the Mississippi. (He later announced he was returning the money, following pressure from Working Families Party and allied groups.)
What's more, Schaufler was stripped of his co-chairmanship of the House Business and Labor Committee last fall following accusations that he groped a woman's breast while attending a labor convention.
Schaufler was also stripped of his chairmanship on the Business and Labor Committee co-chair following allegations that he groped a woman at an organized labor event in October. While Schaufler described the event as "innocent horseplay," House Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan didn't see it that way.
"After personally investigating the incident, including having several conversations with those involved, I have determined that the strongest course of action available to me is to remove Rep. Schaufler as both chair and as a member of the House Business and Labor Committee," Roblan said at the time, according to The Oregonian. "I am taking this action immediately to show how seriously I view this incident."
National Democratic groups will be watching Tuesday’s primary closely after a number of Democratic incumbents were defeated last month after opposing key parts of Obama's health care law and climate change legislation.
"While Republicans have seized on the health care law as a political weapon to employ against the president and congressional Democrats, many Democratic voters and party activists see it as a major achievement and are poised to punish Democrats who fought it," The New York Times reported following the defeat of Pennsylvania Reps. Jason Altmire and Tim Holden.