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PORTLAND - Republicans picked up seats in the Oregon Legislature and were within striking distance of tying in the House.

For much of Wednesday it looked as if the House and Senate would both be tied - a phenomenon that would've been unprecedented in recent American history. But late results from Jackson County showed that Democratic Sen. Alan Bates was leading by 240 votes with nearly all of the vote reported by the county, likely helping Democrats retain control of the Senate by the narrowest of margins.

The GOP swept nearly all of the Legislature's 16 competitive races in Tuesday's election, holding all of their own seats and picking up Democratic seats in Bend and the Portland suburbs.

If current trends hold in a handful of close races, the Democrats will control the Senate 16-14 and the House will be tied.

The Oregon Legislature last saw a tied chamber following the 2002 election, when the Senate was evenly split.

The winners of Oregon's legislative races will have to tackle a massive budget deficit and work with a Democratic Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber, a former two-term governor who worked with Republican-controlled legislatures throughout his tenure.

Since 2008, Democrats have controlled three-fifths of the seats in both chambers, enough to raise taxes without a single Republican vote. They used their supermajorities in 2009 to help approve the tax increases that later went to voters as Measures 66 and 67. Both were approved at the ballot box.

The supermajority also helped Democrats expand health coverage for 80,000 children by hiking taxes on hospital revenue and health insurance premiums.

Democrats had been widely expected to lose ground but retain majorities they've held since 2006.

The surprisingly strong Republican showing means the parties could be forced to work out a power-sharing agreement in the Senate.

In a statement Wednesday, House Republican leader Bruce Hanna said it's time to put partisanship aside and prepare for next year's legislative session.

``I'm sincerely grateful for the trust that Oregonians have placed in House Republicans,'' Hanna said. ``We may have policy differences with Democrats, but we are ready to work across the aisle to make our state a better place.''

Senate Democratic leaders also released a statement Wednesday committing to working with Republicans.

``The history of the Oregon Senate is one of bipartisan respect and cooperation,'' said Senate President Peter Courtney and Majority Leader Richard Devlin. ``We believe it has never been more important for Oregon's leaders to put aside their partisan differences and work together.''

Democrats nationally suffered a rough night, losing dozens of seats in Congress and races all the way down the ballot.


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