Oregon primaries: 36 gubernatorial candidates, many contested races

2022-03-12 06:16:06 By : Ms. Trico Le

Primary election races at the local, state and federal levels are now set.

With new legislative and congressional district maps and the parting of many senior political officeholders, this year is shaping up to be one of the most uncertain election cycles in recent Oregon history.

Gov. Kate Brown cannot run for reelection due to term limits, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, announced he would retire after his current term and a number of senators and representatives are either resigning from office or are leaving after short-term appointments.

Republicans are looking to break Democrats' multi-year supermajority control of the Oregon House and Senate as well as elect a Republican governor for the first time since 1982. Democrats are pursuing to maintain that control as they weather shifting leadership at the top of the party.

With the legislative session completed and only 10 weeks before the May 17 primary election, some political analysts have remarked on how quiet the races have been so far. Even among serious candidates, the overt indications of the campaign season — such as ubiquitous television political advertisements — have so far been largely absent.

“You have to introduce yourself to the voters. All the forums you go to in the world won’t do that. You have to use mass media,” Oregon political analyst Jim Moore said. “It’s stunning to me that it has all seemed to be in suspended animation."

In general, candidates whom politicos consider to be “serious” are those with previous governmental experience and — arguably more importantly — those with a lot of cash on hand. The size of one’s political action bank account isn’t important in and of itself, but having a substantial war chest allows candidates to shape a race to their benefit.

Before the filing deadline, if a candidate already in the race has considerable fundraising success, that alone can discourage potential opponents from contending for the position.

Once campaign season begins in earnest, candidates need to introduce themselves to voters while simultaneously setting themselves apart from their rivals. Much of this comes down to framing: how does a candidate define themselves and how do they attempt to define their opponents.

Money makes this much easier. It pays for highly produced television and radio advertisements, boosted social media posts, mailers, yard signs, billboards and webpages. And in Oregon, there is still no limit on how much money an individual can contribute to a campaign.

As the primary campaign season begins, here is a look at some of the top races:

The last time Oregon had a gubernatorial race this unsettled was in 2002, when the two primaries were fought for by three strong candidates on both sides of the aisle. In total, 11 candidates participated in the election, with future governor Ted Kulongoski receiving less than 50% of the vote in his primary and Republican primary winner Kevin Mannix getting 35%.

Two decades later, more than three times that number are in the running to replace Brown — a staggering 17 Democrats and 19 Republicans. Moore speculated the winner of the Republican primary this year might do so with less than 30% of the vote.

“For the first time in 20 years, it’s just totally wide open," he said. "There's no favorites. No one’s been anointed as the successor to Kate Brown."

The Democratic race is considered a two-person contest between former House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland and Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read. Both have landed noteworthy endorsements and numerous campaign contributions. As of Tuesday, Kotek had about $950,000 in her campaign account, while Read had about $610,000.

Things are a bit more crowded at the top of the Republican primary with at least half a dozen candidates with experience, money or both:

The full list of candidates for this and every other race can be found on ORESTAR through the Oregon Secretary of State's website.

Oregon was granted a sixth congressional seat for the first time during the nationwide redistricting process last year, and 15 candidates have emerged to become its inaugural representative.

CD 6 encompasses Polk and Yamhill counties as well as portions of Marion County (including Salem), Clackamas County and Washington County.

Six are on the Republican side: Rep. Ron Noble of McMinnville; former Keizer city councilor Amy Ryan Courser; clean energy executive Nate Sandvig; former U.S. representative and state senator Jim Bunn; Dundee mayor David Russ; and U.S. Air Force veteran Angela Plowhead.

Among the Democrats, Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon of Woodburn, Rep. Andrea Salinas of Lake Oswego and former Multnomah County commissioner Loretta Smith are the candidates with the most government experience. But there are a host of well-funded, if inexperienced, candidates also vying for oters' approval.

Redistricting experts rate the district as leaning Democratic, but outside of the relative toss-up Congressional District 5, CD 6 appears to be the GOP's best chance at nabbing another spot in the congressional delegation. Oregon voters haven't sent more than one Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives since 1994.

The new district also has no incumbent, so the name recognition and funding advantages incumbents usually maintain will not apply.

“It’s wonderfully wide open,” Moore said.

Here are the top five candidates in the race when looking at funding, according to Federal Election Commission data. Campaign finance information for federal races is reported quarterly to the FEC; the next report will be on April 15.

This statewide race also lacks an incumbent as current BOLI commissioner Val Hoyle decided to run to represent Oregon Congressional District 4.

It's also unique as the only nonpartisan statewide position on the ballot this year. All candidates will run in the same primary this spring, but if no one secures more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.

Seven candidates have filed for the position, which is responsible for overseeing the state agency tasked with protecting the rights of workers, enforcing compliance with employment laws, educating employers on wage and civil rights law and promoting workforce development.

The position tends to attract fewer campaign contributions than other contested statewide seats.

The candidates for BOLI commissioner are:

In the state Legislature, Republicans hope to at least undo the 18-seat and 37-seat supermajorities Democrats control in the Senate and House, respectively. In the Senate, Republicans have even loftier goals, believing they have a shot at flipping at least three seats to secure a split Senate or even a Republican majority.

They point to Courtney retiring, former Sen. Betsy Johnson stepping down to run for governor, general uncertainty around the new state legislative maps and the prospect of high Republican voter enthusiasm as clear marks in their favor.

“This is the best chance for Republicans to move things around, right now,” Moore said.

The balance of the Legislature could come down to a handful of seats in the relatively purple greater Salem area.

Next January, for the first time since 1999, Salem will not be represented in the Oregon Senate by Senate President Peter Courtney. Five people are running, two Republicans and three Democrats.

Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, will square off against small business owner Marcello De Cicco in the Republican primary.

The Democratic race will be among Anthony Rosilez, executive director of the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission; Eric Swenson, Woodburn mayor; and Richard Walsh, former Keizer city councilor.

With current Rep. Raquel Moore-Green deciding to run for Senate, this race also is without an incumbent but is full of current and former elected politicians.

Only one Republican is running, former Salem city councilor TJ Sullivan. Two current Salem city councilors are competing against each other in the Democratic primary — Tom Andersen and Jackie Leung. Andersen has about $10,000 in his campaign account, while Leung has about $20,000.

Adding himself to the mix on Monday was Rep. Brad Witt, who currently represents House District 31 northwest of Portland.

Witt said in October he would not run for reelection because of how his district was redrawn; it is now less favorable for Democrats and he has called the new maps gerrymandered. It is unclear when Witt moved into House District 19. According to the state Constitution, candidates must live in the district they seek to represent for at least one year.

Near the end of the 2021 legislative session, Witt was removed from his position as chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee after texts he sent to a fellow lawmaker were found to have violated the Legislature's workplace harassment policy.

Five candidates are seeking the seat formerly held by Rep. Brian Clem, who announced his resignation from the House of Representatives in October. Salem City Councilor Chris Hoy currently holds the seat after he was appointed to replace Clem, but does not live in the re-drawn district.

In the Republican primary, long-time Oregon politico Kevin Mannix is running against forklift operator Kyler McNaught.

Among the Democrats, the race is among small business owner and veteran Ramiro Navarro Jr., farm and outdoor store manager David McCall and financial analyst Robert Husseman.

Two Republicans and two Democrats will compete to fill the seat vacated by Alonso Leon and her campaign for Congress.

Accounts receivable clerk Karl Emmrich and senior education policy analyst Anthony Medina will face off in the Democratic primary. The Republican race will be between cybersecurity analyst Jim Lowder and former dental assistant Tracy Cramer.

The remaining seats in the greater Salem area won't have a contested primary on either side of the aisle:

Reporter Connor Radnovich covers the Oregon Legislature and state government. Contact him at cradnovich@statesmanjournal.com or 503-508-6131, or follow him on Twitter at @CDRadnovich.