Crook County Republican Party leaders will join others throughout House District 55 this weekend to choose candidates to replace departed Rep. Mike McLane.
McLane stepped down after serving on the Oregon Legislature since 2011, to fill a vacant circuit court judge position in the 22nd judicial district, which serves Crook and Jefferson counties. He was sworn as judge on July 1, and his vacancy with the legistature was effective July 15.
The process to fill McLane's vacant seat is determined by several state statutes. The appointment must be made by the county courts or boards of county commissioners in each county within the district. House District 55 includes all of Crook County and portions of Deschutes, Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties. Each county is entitled one vote for each every 1,000 registered voters within the district, and the votes are portioned equally to each county commissioner in each county. According to Mike Trout, director of elections with the Secretary of State's Office, Crook County will get 18 votes, followed by Jackson County with 16. Deschutes County will get 11 votes, Klamath will get six votes and Lake County will receive two.
Because McLane was a Republican legislator, his replacement has to have been a member of the same party for 180 days or more at the time the vacancy occurred. This Saturday, Republican leaders throughout the district will meet in La Pine and Republican precinct committeepersons from each county will choose a group of potential appointees. According to statute, they must choose at least three people, but no more than five.
When news of McLane's resignation was first announced, Crook County Republican Party Chair Larry Reese named several local people who might be chosen as for the vacancy. They included real estate broker Vikki Breese-Iverson, Crook County Judge Seth Crawford and former Prineville City Councilor Jason Carr.
Going into Saturday's meeting, Reese is no longer including Carr and Crawford as potential appointees, although he said Breese-Iverson remains an option and he said Deborah Tilden has emerged publicly as a candidate.
Reese suggested there might be other Crook County appointee candidates, but chose not to disclose their names. He added that other counties have similarly stayed tight-lipped on possible replacements.
"It has been kept pretty quiet because we are not allowed to endorse any particular person until after that selection is done," he explained.
Reese added that he had considered throwing his name in the hat, but has since decided to hold off on seeking the position.
"I am going to stick to being the Republican Party chair for Crook County and then I am going to run in the (2020) general election for House District 55," he said.
Though Reese could not reveal all of the local candidates under consideration for the House District 55 appointment, he did describe the type of person the local Republican Party is seeking for the seat.
"They wanted people who are honest and stand for the Republican Party platform," he said. "They did not want liberal candidates, they wanted candidates who are pretty firm with where we want the state to go."
Reese declined to offer specific issues the local party is concerned about regarding their selection, noting that such issues will be raised during Saturday's meeting.
Once the field of three to five candidates is chosen, the county commissioners and judges of each county within the district will cast their votes for the person they prefer. As dictated by statute, rounds of voting will continue until one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes.
The vacancy must be filled no later than Aug. 13. Once the appointee is sworn in, they will serve House District 55 for the remainder of McLane's elected term, which concludes Dec. 31, 2020.
Consequently, they will represent the district during the 2020 legislative session.
The position will then be filled by election in November 2020.
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