Oregon primary election roster set amid outrage, intrigue
Oregon's political merry-go-round spun ever faster Wednesday, March 9, as the lineup of 2022 candidates rolled out, and the chair of the Oregon Republican Party resigned, saying "Communist psychological warfare tactics are being used daily within the party."
When the 5 p.m. filing deadline passed Tuesday, March 8, 390 people had filed to run for an array of offices on the May 17 primary ballots, along with 29 who have signed up for the general election on Nov. 8.
"For those of you who are first-time candidates, you are about to embark on the strangest job interview you have ever had," Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said Tuesday night as the window to run in May closed.
The list included a platoon of 41 candidates for governor, inspired by an election that won't feature a current or former governor on the ballot for the first time since 2002. Term limits bar Gov. Kate Brown from running.
No major new candidates filed in the final hours, with former House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland and Treasurer Tobias Read the headliners among Democrats. Republicans include former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan of Canby, 2016 governor nominee Bud Pierce of Salem, 1998 governor nominee Bill Sizemore of Redmond and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam. All seek to get a shot at becoming the first GOP winner for the top job since Vic Atiyeh in 1982.
Former Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who grew up in Bend and Redmond, plans to bypass the primaries to run as an unaffiliated candidate in November.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, will seek another six-year term. He faces two Democrats in the May primary, and if he wins in May, the victor among seven Republicans.
GOP leader makes bitter exit
The intraparty battles of the primaries were jump-started by the sudden, angry resignation of Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, as chair of the Oregon Republican Party with a long tirade against internal GOP enemies he said had "broken my spirit."
"My physical and spiritual health can no longer survive exposure to the toxicity that can be found in this community," Heard said in a statement. "We truly have an equal if not greater evil than the Democrats walking among us. Communist psychological warfare tactics are being used daily within the party. "
Heard will retain his seat in the Senate, where he has been removed from the floor of the Senate during sessions in 2021 and 2022 for refusing to wear a mask as required under the state's COVID-19 emergency rules.
GOP state vice-chair Herman Baertschiger, a Josephine County commissioner and former leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, said he will fill in until a new election for chair is organized. Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, a Heard ally, remains party treasurer.
Late outs and ins
• Was in, now out: Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, let the Tuesday deadline pass without filing for reelection. Two Democratic insiders jumped into the race in the final 30 hours. Smith Warner sent an email Monday afternoon, March 7, to constituents saying she wouldn't be running, according to a report in the Willamette Week. No public announcement was made in the primary for the heavily Democratic district before the window to run was closed.
• Was out, now in: Former Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, filed Tuesday — the last day — to run for the nonpartisan Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries job. It's one of the four executive positions in Oregon government, along with governor, secretary of state and treasurer. Helt faces six other candidates including Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla and Portland attorney Christina Stephenson, who has won early labor union support.
• Was out, relocated, now in: Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, had announced he wouldn't seek reelection to his seat in House District 31, in the northwest area of the state. He noted the increased percentage of Republicans within the boundaries following redistricting for the 2022 election.
Witt made a surprise move Monday, announcing he would try to stay in the House, moving to Salem and running for the open House District 19 seat being vacated by Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem, who is running for the Senate.
Capitol Hill hopes
Oregon now has six congressional seats, one more than the previous decade, awarded to the state for population growth. There will be at least one new member of Congress representing the new 6th Congressional District around the Salem area. Three House members are among the nine Democrats and seven Republicans trying to jump from Salem to Washington, D.C.
Of the five other races, the main attraction so far has been the 5th Congressional District, which now stretches from Portland, over the Cascades, to Bend. Several forecasters have said it's the race with the most near-even split among Democratic and Republican leaning voters. Both party's primaries are shaping up into slugfests.
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, is the official incumbent in the much realigned district. Former congressional and secretary of state candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner has attracted progressives to her bid to oust Schrader in May.
The winner will move onto the general election among five candidates in the GOP primary.
Most of the money and attention have been going to two well-financed candidates from opposite ends of the district.
Former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer lives near the far northeast end of the district, while Bend businessman Jimmy Crumpacker, is at the southeastern end in Bend, where he made an unsuccessful 2020 bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Both are aligned with supporters of former President Donald Trump.
One factor likely to come up in several of the congressional races is residency. Unlike legislative seats, candidates for the U.S. House do not have to live in the district where they are running, just the state.
Some candidates in the 6th district race are from the Portland area, while DeRemer and McLeod-Skinner live just beyond the boundaries of the 5th District.
Will it matter? It's a question of whether the official OK from the U.S. Constitution translates clearly during the bare-knuckle fights of the primaries.
Candidate cull coming
The list of candidates could shift somewhat in coming days. The Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office will review all filings and also could disqualify candidates who filed for offices but who falsifed names or other information. They also can be removed for failing to meet residency, age and other requirements. Candidates who filed have until Friday, March 11, to withdraw from a race.
While the filing list is the total of those who signed up to run, a better indicator of the level of competition can be found at the campaign financing web pages of the secretary of state.
Candidates for state offices who plan to raise and spend money must take a separate step to create or revise a campaign finance committee with the secretary of state.
Candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races must file with the Federal Elections Commission, which has different rules and limits than Oregon's nearly "everything goes" campaign financing.
One is loneliest number — unless it's you
Late redistricting and incumbent uncertainties have led to some blank spots on the ballot.
A preliminary analysis of the filings by John Horvick, political director of DHM Research in Portland showed nine House districts had only one party's candidate filed to run.
Rep. Boomer Wright, R-Reedsport, is running unopposed in House District 9, where Horvich calculated the 29% of voters who are registered Republicans will decide the area's lone candidate to move on to the general election.
Only one Senator gets a solo, Horvick reported.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, has no primary or general election opponent in Senate District 4. The 36% of voters who are registered Democrats are eligible to vote in the May 17 primary.
Democrats currently hold a 37-22 majority in the House, where all 60 seats are on the ballot.
Democrats hold 18 Senate seats. All 12 of the other senators were elected as Republicans, but only 10 now officially belong to the GOP caucus.
Normally, half the 30 Senate seats would be up for a four-year term, but resignations and appointments have jumped the number to 16 this year.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.