Oregon 1st District
Post-modern skyscrapers rising above the riverfront and below a range of hills: This is downtown Portland. The city—which would have been named Boston if a coin toss had gone the other way—started here, along the Willamette River just before it flows into the Columbia. Downtown Portland was built on the narrow strip of land west of the river and below the hills, not on the flat expanse that stretches east toward the snow-capped peak of Mount Hood. It was once a dowdy place, proper in a New England kind of way, with a few formal buildings above the warehouses and factories. But in the last 30 years, there has been an explosion of affluence and creativity here, symbolized by handsome high-rises—the pyramid-crested brick KOIN Tower, the wedge-shaped Justice Center—restored Victorian storefronts, a downtown transit trolley, and a light-rail line known as MAX (for Metropolitan Area Express). There is a free wireless network in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and just across the river is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The well-to-do neighborhoods in the hills overlooking downtown are full of old lumber barons’ mansions with splendid views.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Just over the hills are the valleys and interstices between green mountains of suburban Washington County. This was once farm country, with 39,000 people in 1940; now it has 522,000 and is an integral part of metro Portland. It continues to be fast-growing; the population rose 68% between 1990 and 2007. And it enjoys a high-tech, healthy-lifestyle affluence. Its towns are cushioned by protected forests and anchored by major employers that include Tektronix, Intel, IBM, Columbia Sportswear, and Adidas. Beaverton has the world headquarters of Nike, housed in 16 buildings spread over 178 acres. Like Silicon Valley, the Silicon Forest has an environment that appeals to a highly skilled workforce: Nestled at the foot of mountains, it is woodsy and even rustic, but it’s outfitted with all the comforts of modern life. As they say locally, wood chips have been replaced by computer chips.
The 1st Congressional District of Oregon includes downtown Portland and its western hills, and all of suburban Washington County. The 1st also proceeds nearly 100 miles northwest from Portland along the Columbia River to the rain-swept port of Astoria on the Pacific Coast, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-06 at what is now the Fort Clatsop National Memorial. To the southwest is Yamhill County, a prime location for turkey farms during the 1960s but lately the site of metro expansion. Beaverton has become known for its wineries, and coastal Newport is popular for its oysters. Like Oregon, the 1st District is historically New England Republican, electing only GOP members of Congress from 1892 to 1972. Like New England, it then trended sharply left on cultural issues, even as its high-tech economy brought new affluence. Starting in 1974, it has elected only Democrats. In 2004, John Kerry won the district 55%-44%, and in 2008, Barack Obama won it with 61%.