Oregon Republicans failed to enlist top-drawer candidates to run against U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden or three other Democrats seeking re-election to statewide offices.
As the filing deadline passed Tuesday for Oregon’s May 18 primary, it appeared that the Republicans’ drought in winning statewide offices will continue.
None of the party’s bigger names entered races against Wyden, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, Attorney General Hardy Myers and state Treasurer Randall Edwards.
Republicans will field candidates in each of the four races, but only one has significant elective-office experience: Rep. Betsy Close, R-Albany, a candidate for secretary of state.
“Statewide races will be very dull,” said lobbyist and former Democratic lawmaker Stephen Kafoury, reflecting a common sentiment during filing-day festivities in the House chamber at the Capitol.
“I don’t know why we don’t have more formidable candidates running at the top of the ticket,” said Republican political consultant Chuck Adams. “I think we have some work to do motivating people to run for those positions.”
Defeating the Democratic incumbents will be especially tough because they haven’t made missteps or been embroiled in controversies, said Jim Edmunson, Oregon Democratic Party chairman.
Aside from U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Pendleton, no Republican holds statewide office in Oregon.
“They’re hitting a brick wall,” said Portland political analyst Jim Moore. “They’re recruiting candidates for the Legislature who are looking at a statewide race, and they all say ‘no.’ The Republicans have got to be doing a lot of soul-searching,” he said.
Oregon Republican Party chief Kevin Mannix, who worked on the recruitment of statewide candidates, disagreed with that assessment.
“They’re running retread candidates,” he said of the Democrats’ roster of incumbents seeking re-election. “We’ve got fresh faces, and we’ll present a fresh perspective.”
The main surprise before the 5 p.m. filing deadline was Salem lawyer Paul Connolly, who entered the race for attorney general. Connolly represents the Oregon Republican Party in his legal work and is a former law partner of Rep. Dan Doyle, R-Salem.
“He’s going to be well-funded and well-regarded,” Doyle said.
Also entering the attorney general’s race Tuesday was Reed College student Alia Breitwieser, 18.
Rep. Close will duel Portland businessman Fred Granum in the GOP primary for secretary of state.
Newberg computer architect Paul Damian Wells filed to run against Bradbury in the Democratic primary.
Clackamas resident Jeff Caton, a chief financial officer for MCM Project Management, is the lone Republican running for treasurer.
Six little-known Republicans entered the U.S. Senate primary against Wyden.
Republicans were disappointed that some of their better-known members didn’t file for statewide office, but several touted the competitive GOP primaries looming in two congressional districts. In House District 5, which includes the Mid-Willamette Valley, Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, is waging a tough primary against former Lake Oswego School Board member Jim Zupancic.
Incumbent Darlene Hooley, D-West Linn, will compete in the Democratic primary against media consultant Andrew Kaza of Manzanita.
There also is a heated GOP primary in House District 1, which covers the northwest part of the state.
Aside from those two contests, several legislative races could spice up the primary, especially in local seats:
•Salem aviation executive Brian Boquist, who withdrew from the congressional race last week, was a surprise candidate for the Legislature in House District 23. That includes Dallas and most of Polk County. He is one of five Republicans vying for the seat.
•Rep. Vic Backlund, R-Keizer, drew a challenger: construction business owner Kim Thatcher. She is active in Citizens for a Sound Economy, which organized the campaign against the Measure 30 tax package. Backlund supported the tax package.
•Five Republicans entered the primary in House District 18, which includes northern Marion County.
In addition, there will be three contested races for seats on the Oregon Supreme Court and Oregon Court of Appeals.
Top state races
Ron Wyden, incumbent, Democrat
Thomas Lee Abshier, Republican
Earl Bowerman Jr., Republican
Bruce Broussard, Republican
Pavel Goberman, Republican
Al King, Republican
Philip Petrie, Republican
Representative in Congress, 5th District
Darlene Hooley, incumbent, Democrat
Andrew Kaza, Democrat
Jackie Winters, Republican
Jim Zupancic, Republican
Secretary of State
Bill Bradbury, incumbent, Democrat
Paul Damian Wells, Democrat
Betsy Close, Republican
Fred Granum, Republican
Randall Edwards, incumbent, Democrat
Jeff Caton, Republican
Hardy Myers, incumbent, Democrat
Alia Breitwieser, Republican
Paul Connolly, Republican
Oregon Supreme Court
Rives Kistler, incumbent
Michael Gillette, incumbent
William Riggs, incumbent
Oregon Court Of Appeals
Darleen Ortega, incumbent
Virginia Linder, incumbent
Robert Wollheim, incumbent
Steve Law can be reached at (503) 399-6615.