This year's congressional races offer no great surprises. In only one race has a challenger raised any serious funding, and the serious funding is unaccompanied by serious ideas. The incumbents all deserve another term.
In the First District, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, a half-term incumbent elected to the seat after David Wu resigned, faces an unfunded challenge from Republican Delinda Morgan. (The Center for Responsive Politics credits Rep. Bonamici with raising $2.4 million, and Ms. Morgan with $8,086.) No one expects much from a brand-new representative coming in midway through the session, but Rep. Bonamici appears to be catching on quickly. Ms. Morgan's campaign platform (here) states her support for "cut, cap, and balance," the conservative Republican approach to the nation's fiscal mess. Interestingly, she goes beyond "cut, cap, and balance" to advocate repealing the Internal Revenue Code and (if I understand her rightly) replacing the income and estate taxes covered by the current Code with a national sales tax.
The problem with Ms. Morgan's proposal is that annual retail sales in the United States are about $4.5 trillion per year. To fund a $2 trillion/year government (less than what we're spending now) would thus require a general sales tax of 40% or more, and shifting the tax burden from the rich and the middle-income to the poor and low-income. Re-electing Rep. Bonamici is an easy call.
In the Second District, incumbent Republican Greg Walden ($2.5 million) has represented his district ably and should be returned to office. His Democratic challenger, Joyce Segers, has raised only $30,000. She links to a summary of Rep. Walden's voting record (here) that shows him to be more conservative than moderate, but by my interpretation in the left wing of the Republican party. She makes no compelling case for replacing Rep. Walden, who appears to be in sync with the general views of his district.
Continental Europe has its "bicycle monarchs," as the British describe the low-pomp royal houses across the Channel. The Third District has the bicycle congressman, the low-pomp Earl Blumenauer, the senior and most effective of Oregon's members of the House. Being a policy wonk (a term he likely revels in), he's filled his Voter's Pamphlet page with five specific policy proposals, followed by the statement, "There are 35 others listed on my website. Take a look." Allowing that he has the luxury of being able to make specific proposals because he has the safest district in Oregon, he nevertheless deserves re-election.
The Fourth District hosts the only race with a well-funded challenger. Incumbent Peter DeFazio ($1.2 million) faces a strong challenge from Republican Art Robinson ($1 million). Rep. DeFazio represents the most politically diverse district in Oregon, covering liberal Eugene, working-class mill towns, and head-for-the-hills rightists: a tough balancing act. Mr. Robinson's positions vary from the conservative to the bizarre: for example, here he says that "the Constitution does not permit paper money, only gold and silver," and says that "capital gains taxes and special laws stopped the use of gold and silver." He does, however, accept campaign donations through the non-metallic means of Visa and MasterCard. Voters who believe that the science of economics has progressed since the 18th century should re-elect Mr. DeFazio.
In the Fifth District, incumbent Kurt Schrader ($1.6 million) is opposed by Republican Fred Thompson and Pacific Green candidate Christina Jean Lugo. Neither makes a convincing case for replacing Dr. Schrader, though they both appear to be serious, thoughtful candidates. (It's a mystery to me why Republican donors have flocked to Mr. Robinson ($1 million) in the Fourth District and avoided Mr. Thompson ($22,000) in the Fifth District, and it suggests to me that it's possible to become rich without a grasp of the dismal science.) The Fifth District should cheerfully return Dr. Schrader for another term.