PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Steady population growth, driven by newcomers streaming in from other states, is giving Oregon greater national political clout.
U.S. Census Bureau figures released Monday show the state’s population increased by 10% over the past decade to more than 4.2 million, enough to give it an additional congressional district for the first time in 40 years.
“It is exciting that we will gain an additional seat in Congress and Oregonians’ voices will be better represented in Washington D.C.,” said state Sen. Kathleen Taylor, a Portland Democrat who is the Senate Redistricting Chair.
Expanding its U.S. House seats from five to six won’t necessarily be a win for Democrats, who control the state politically and hold all but one of the current seats.
“The real quandary for Democrats is that Oregon is much more of a competitive state than you would think,” said Priscilla Southwell, a political science professor at the University of Oregon.
In last year’s presidential election, she said 42% of Oregon voters cast their ballot for a Republican House candidate. Democrats are concentrated in Portland, its suburbs and Eugene, home to the University of Oregon. Rural and eastern Oregon is heavily Republican.
“I think (Democrats) are going to come under a lot of pressure, probably from Republicans more than anyone else, to recognize that there are a lot of Republicans in the state of Oregon (who) have been underrepresented in the U.S. House,” Southwell said.