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Do Oregon Primaries Actually Matter?

Across the nation, primaries are the first step in determining who will represent one’s political party in an upcoming election. Although they don’t appear as lofty as the impending general elections, their value cannot be understated. 

The primary season for the 2024 election began on Jan. 15 in New Hampshire and will end in June. Over that six-month period, eligible voters across the country place their ballots, choosing candidates for everything ranging from the president to state governors and local positions. Many states hold their primaries on Super Tuesday, which generally occurs in March.

The Republican National Convention takes place in July this year, and the Democratic National Convention will follow soon after in August. At both events, delegates from each state will choose the party nominations, based on the primary votes.

However, the way the primary system is set up gives states with earlier primaries far more say than those with later ones, such as Oregon. By the time that Oregon voters cast their ballots, candidates for party nominations have been decided already. Winning the Republican nomination requires 1,215 delegates out of 2,429 in total. Currently, Trump has gained 2,015. 

Similarly, the Democratic nomination for president requires 1,968 votes out of 3,934 possible. Biden has also surpassed this threshold, currently holding 3,386 pledges. In short, the elections for presidential candidates have already been decided.

The primary election does matter for more locally-centered matters, however. In Oregon, the gubernatorial candidates will be decided through the May 21 primary, as will positions such as the county commissioner. 

In addition, several levies are also on the May ballot. Levies are taxes that would add small amounts to the taxes that Oregonians already pay. This year, the levies would benefit the La Pine Fire District and the Bend-La Pine School District, among others. 

One La-Pine Fire District levy proposes that 64 cents out of every $1,000 is collected in property tax, dependent on a home’s worth. The funds would go towards operating costs for the Fire Department, including staffing 21 firefighter paramedics, and would raise a combined total of $7.5 million within the next five years.

La Pine has also proposed a second levy that would tax property owners 23 cents for every $1,000 worth of property to maintain and replace firefighting equipment. Both Fire District levies have successfully passed in recent years and are currently up for renewal. The levy estimates that $5.6 million will be raised in the next 10 years.

The Bend-La Pine Schools Learning Levy proposes that one dollar out of every $1,000 in assessed property value goes towards maintaining programs across the district that would otherwise be cut in the 2024-25 school year due to decreased state funding. Otherwise, as many as 180 teaching, student support, and administrative positions would have to be cut within the next two years to accommodate the funding shortfall. Classes would grow in size by an average of about four students across elementary, middle, and high schools. 

In addition, elective classes and programs would also be eliminated. Some of the key departments under fire are high school theater programs, which has caused an outcry of support from students, staff, and families alike. If passed, the levy is estimated to raise $22.5 million over the next five years. 


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