SALEM – Oregon’s political landscape didn’t exactly quake in Tuesday’s ho-hum primary, but at least it brought next fall’s general election showdowns into sharper focus.
It appears that Democratic Secretary of State Bill Bradbury will face Republican challenger Betsy Close, an Albany lawmaker, who led with 52 percent to businessman Fred Granum’s 48 percent with partial returns.
And the Democrat-vs.-Republican lineups in 77 legislative races are now decided or closer to being settled, as the two parties prepare to fight for control of the House and Senate.
Locally, that means appointed incumbent Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, will do battle with Republican Bill Young in House District 8, which includes southwest Eugene and outlying areas including Veneta. Holvey successfully fended off challenges by area civic activist and accountant Marlene “Mitzi” Colbath and Democratic Party activist and tax preparer Hart Williams, both fellow Eugene residents. With 76 percent of the votes counted, Holvey had 67 percent to Colbath’s 29 percent and Williams 4 percent.
And in neighboring House District 7, which combines east Lane County with much of Douglas County, appointed incumbent Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, now knows he will face the winner of that district’s Democratic primary: Sutherlin-area financial planner Shirley Cairns. She moves on to the general election race after defeating Greg Thorne of Vida with 65 percent of the vote, according to partial returns.
The two races were the only contested legislative primaries involving Lane County. Statewide, voters decided two contested Senate primaries and 29 multi-candidate races for party nominations in the House: 13 involving Democrats and 16 settling Republican races.
Among the most closely watched:
Incumbent Rep. Vic Backlund, R-Keizer, was losing to conservative challenger Kim Thatcher, who was backed by Citizens for a Sound Economy, which led the successful referendum vote on the Legislature’s tax increase that Backlund and other moderate Republicans supported. Backlund had 41 percent to Thatcher’s 59 percent.
In a similar race pitting an anti-tax challenger against an incumbent Republican who had voted for the tax increase, Rep. Susan Morgan, R-Myrtle Creek, was leading with 62 percent over challenger Carol Malmay.
Rep. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, was prevailing in her three-way fight for the Democratic nomination against runner-up Rod Parks, a Metro councilor. Monnes Anderson had 49 percent to Park’s 32 percent.
Incumbent Klamath Falls Republican Rep. Bill Garrard was pulling ahead with 56 percent against former state Rep. Del Parks, who entered the race amid criticism that Garrard spent too much time in his second home in Las Vegas and not enough in his Southern Oregon district.
Democratic Rep. Kelley Wirth of Corvallis was prevailing with 52 percent of the vote in her campaign against Democratic challenger Sara Gelser, also of Corvallis. Gelser had made an issue of Wirth’s 25 percent absentee rate on House floor votes last session.
In the Oregon Supreme Court, Rives Kistler, the liberal incumbent, was defeating conservative challenger James Leuenberger 61 percent to 39 percent for Position 4.
Umatilla County Circuit Judge Rudy Murgo trailed Supreme Court Justice William Riggs by 66-34 percent, and Court of Appeals Judge Robert Wollheim had 60 percent of the vote to 40 percent for Bend lawyer Phil Brockett.
Leuenberger, who has represented the anti-gay Oregon Citizens Alliance, didn’t directly make Kistler’s sexual orientation an issue in the race in his low-key campaign.
The Oregon Christian Coalition’s mass mailings to its members raised the issue.
Kistler’s advertising late in the race mentioned that the Oregon State Bar is recommending that Leuenberger be suspended from practice for 90 days.
The Bar said Leuenberger violated attorney ethics rules in handling a 1997 home foreclosure case. Leuenberger denies he violated any rules.