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Counties set meeting for Rep. Gilliam replacement

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Clackamas, Marion boards set Feb. 22 in Mt. Angel for public interviews, appointment in House District 18 after five-term member resigns because of illness.

Commissioners in Clackamas and Marion counties have set Feb. 22 to interview candidates and appoint a successor to state Rep. Vic Gilliam in House District 18.

The meeting will start at 1:30 p.m. at the Mt. Angel Fire District, 300 Monroe St. It is open to the public.

The appointee would complete Gilliam's term, which ends Jan. 14, 2019.

Gilliam, 63, is a Republican from Silverton who resigned effective Feb. 1, three months after he won re-election in a district that covers southern Clackamas County and eastern Marion County.

He has been diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis, a progressive nerve disease that weakens muscles, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

At an Oct. 20 dinner during which he received the Oregon Statesman award from the Oregon Business Association, Gilliam stood in the arms of his brother, Joe, and Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, a former House colleague, as his wife Becky read aloud his remarks.

Gilliam himself was appointed to the House in January 2007 after his predecessor, Republican Mac Sumner of Molalla, resigned upon winning a second term. Sumner died of cancer a few months later.

The votes of the commissioners will be weighted in proportion to the number of people in each county. Each of the three Marion County commissioners will cast 8 1/3 votes; each of the five Clackamas County commissioners, four votes. About 25,000 people live in the Marion County portion of the district, and 20,000 in the Clackamas County portion.

The commissioners must choose from a list of three to five names supplied by the party.

Former Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith, who held the same House seat from 2001 to 2005, is among the Republicans seeking the appointment. She lost her re-election bid Nov. 8.

There may be an unusual twist to the process. Although Gilliam is a Republican, he also accepted the Independent Party nomination for the Nov. 8 general election, so that party can put forth its own names for appointment.

Under a state law that goes back several decades, the appointee must be of the same party as the person he or she is succeeding. Oregon law does not provide for special elections to fill legislative vacancies.

Democrats have 35 seats in the House, Republicans 25.

If commissioners fail to name anyone by the 30-day deadline, the appointment authority goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who then can name any Republican or Independent Party member to the seat.

Such an occurrence would be highly unusual, but not unprecedented.

In 1997, after then-Sen. Bill Kennemer was elected a Clackamas County commissioner, the county board declined to appoint any of the Republicans put forth for his Senate seat. Gov. John Kitzhaber then appointed Verne Duncan of Milwaukie, a former state schools superintendent and Idaho legislator. (Kennemer was elected to the House in 2008, and is now in his fifth term.)

In 2001, after then-Rep. Bill Morrisette was appointed to the Senate, Lane County commissioners declined to appoint any of the Democrats put forth for his House seat. Kitzhaber then appointed Terry Beyer of Springfield, wife of Lee Beyer, who had resigned from the Senate to become a public utility commissioner. (Lee Beyer regained his old Senate seat via election in 2010.)

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