Oregon 5th District
The Willamette Valley was the great Promised Land at the end of the Oregon Trail, shielded from the cold storms of the Pacific by mountains but squeezing most of the moisture out of the clouds in the form of rain, fog, and persistent mist. New England Yankees planted small towns they called Salem and Oregon City, founded schools and colleges, built tall-spired churches and eventually Salem’s distinctive Art Deco state Capitol. This was one of the few valleys in the West that settlers found readily suitable for agriculture. The Willamette Valley’s soil is fertile, the plain created by the waters of the Willamette sweeping down from the mountains is broad, but industrial runoff has made the river among the most polluted in the nation. Metro Portland has also intruded on the land, with young people leapfrogging over the parcels protected from development and into Clackamas and Marion counties to the south. Salem and Eugene are battling for the distinction of Oregon’s second-largest city. In 2003, rapidly-growing Salem passed Eugene in population, but Eugene regained second-largest-city status in 2007, according to the Center for Population Research at Portland State University.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 5th Congressional District of Oregon includes much of the northern Willamette Valley. Near Portland is the old pioneer town of Oregon City, which was the end point of the Oregon Trail. The district spreads south to the state capital of Salem, also home of Willamette University, the oldest university west of the Mississippi River. It includes part of Corvallis, home of Oregon State University and its renowned agricultural science department. Then it hops over the Coast Range to take in Lincoln and Tillamook counties, which are fishing and logging and cheese-making communities. The district also includes all of rural Polk County. Although the area remains one of the nation’s chief producers of processed vegetables, its crops of beans and berries have dropped significantly, while nurseries have become a new growth industry. The Willamette Valley is also home to a burgeoning wine industry that produces prize-winning Pinot Noir. In 2007, wine grapes became one of Oregon’s top 10 money-producing crops. Historically, the valley was Republican, like the original home of many of its settlers, New England. But like New England, it has been trending Democratic, and now is marginal territory. The Corvallis area is heavily Democratic, the Salem area more likely to be Republican while Clackamas County is competitive. George W. Bush won this district by fewer than 5,000 votes in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. In 2008, Barack Obama defeated John McCain 54%-43%.