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Major parties meet, hear debates and take straw polls ahead of the May 17 primary election.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Vote-by-mail ballots for the May 17 primary elecion will be arriving soon.There's political movement in the mountains this week. Republicans are heading out from the shadow of Mount Hood, while Democrats make the trek east of the Cascades to Sunriver.

As Republicans concluded the Dorchester Conference near Mt. Hood last weekend, Democrats are heading to their own conference, the Oregon Summit at the Sunriver Resort that starts Friday, April 29.

GOP picks from full field of candidates

Informal straw polls taken of GOP attendees at the Dorchester Conference showed they favor former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer in the 5th Congressional District that runs from Portland to Bend. Rep. Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, came out on top of a large slate of Republicans in the new 6th congressional district. Both candidates put out the results on social media over the weekend.

Less was released about the straw poll to choose among the 19 Republicans running for governor. Former Alsea school superintendent Marc Thielman came out on top after multiple rounds, with Portland consultant Bridget Barton placing second.

The straw poll winners were not included in two high-profile debates last week and later this week. The first, held Thursday, was co-sponsored by the Bend Bulletin and limited the stage to four candidates who had raised significant funds and also placed well in larger public opinion polls: former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby; 2016 GOP governor nominee Bud Pierce of Salem; former Oregon GOP chair Bob Tiernan of Lake Oswego; and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam. The same four are set for a debate Thursday co-sponsored by the Pamplin Media Group and KOIN-TV.

Meanwhile, conservative radio personality Lars Larson used the weekend to weigh-in with his own endorsement of Barton for governor. He also told listeners they should support Chavez-DeRemer in the 5th district race, and Amy Ryan Courser in the 6th district.

Democrats maneuver into spotlight

Now it's the Democrats' turn for strategizing and intrigue at Sunriver Resort south of Bend. The agenda of the Democratic party's Oregon Summit also includes a reception for Gov. Kate Brown, who will leave office in January. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and Treasurer Tobias Read will speak.

Straw polls are also expected following the governor's candidate forum on Sunday.

The Democratic field is just slightly smaller — 15 candidates. Read and former House Majority Leader Tina Kotek, D-Portland, are the top fundraisers so far. But insurgent candidates such as 2018 Independent Party governor nominee Patrick Starnes of Brownsville are calling for equal footing in any party-sponsored debates.

The Oregon Capital Bureau is a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group.

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