In no state has the GOP fallen further over the past decade than in Oregon, which as recently as 2004 was a battleground in presidential contests. Republicans don’t hold any statewide offices and have just a single seat in Congress, while Democrats have won supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature. A population boom fueled by the tech industry has pushed Portland and its suburbs to the left, and pockets of Central Oregon around the city of Bend have drawn an influx of liberals attracted to the area’s outdoor lifestyle, says Jim Moore, a political scientist at Oregon’s Pacific University. Moore’s voting district, outside Portland, illustrates the leftward shift: A decade ago, a precinct in his neighborhood backed the Democratic gubernatorial candidate by less than 1 percent; last year, Biden defeated Trump in the same precinct, 65 percent to 35 percent.
The Republican base in Oregon has also moved to the right. During the 1980s and ’90s, environmentally liberal Republicans won statewide office, but the party no longer supports such candidates. GOP lawmakers told me that the state party has done little to help them regain power, preferring to focus on national politics and ill-fated efforts to recall Governor Kate Brown. “In the course of a year, I have zero conversation with the Oregon Republican Party,” Lynn Findley, a newly elected GOP state senator, said.
The current state-GOP chairman, Bill Currier, didn’t return requests for comment, nor did Solomon Yue, the state’s national committeeman, who, according to Honl, spearheaded the “false flag” resolution. When I reached Currier’s predecessor, State Senator Art Robinson, he told me, “I don’t want to be quoted on it, because I know they do some screwy things.”
The jostling among Oregon Republicans is likely to come to a head later this month, when a group of GOP legislators will try to wrest control of the state party in elections for leadership posts. The fight is so sensitive that few wanted to discuss it openly or predict which side would win. “Do we latch on to the past administration and make that our flag in the ground? Or do we move forward?” asked Ron Noble, a Republican state representative who called the party’s resolution “completely wrong.”
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Members of the party leadership are grappling with this question as well. Honl has decided not to run for another term. She said she wants the party to focus on registering voters and winning local races. Others in leadership, she said, believe that the party’s primary role is to elect delegates to the Republican National Committee and “participate on the national stage.”
Honl, however, remains far more concerned about the brutal reality of where Republicans stand in Oregon at the moment. In November, nearly 90 percent of registered Republicans voted. “That’s phenomenal,” Honl said. But, she added, “we still lost. We don’t have enough Republicans.” She has come, belatedly, to a realization that other Republicans, stung by the party’s presidential defeat in 2020, have also confronted in the months since the election. “We have to reach out to these others, to find our common ground to win them over,” Honl said. “But this resolution—unfortunately, this turns those very people off.”