State GOP upgrades No. 2 to chairman

Oregon Republicans elected Salem attorney Vance Day their new state party chairman Saturday after Kevin Mannix stepped down from the position to run for governor.

Day, who had been vice chairman, faced no opposition and was elected unanimously, said Amy Casterline, executive director of the Oregon Republican Party.

The 132-member Republican State Central Committee was meeting at Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond.

Day said he would work with Republican leaders in the Legislature to strengthen the party, which claims a majority of the registered voters in all but 10 of Oregon’s 36 counties.

Because Democrats have a majority in many of the state’s most populous counties, however, Democrats outnumbered Republicans statewide as of May by about 60,000.

Day said the party will focus on registering more Republicans by appealing to the core values of voters.

“People get this weird idea that Republicans are rich, fat-cat, country-club people,” he said. “But really Republicans are common-sense, common folk who live from paycheck to paycheck. That’s who our core is.”

He said he would travel the state, raising the Republican profile.

“The tide is turning for the Republicans here in Oregon,” he said.

Mannix had announced last month that he would step down from the state party chairmanship in preparation for a planned race for governor. His GOP leadership was recognized Saturday with a party resolution, plus letters and video messages from prominent state Republicans including Sen. Gordon Smith, former Sen. Mark O. Hatfield and Rep. Greg Walden.

Mannix is already facing competition in the GOP primary from Portland lawyer Ron Saxton. Both sought the governorship in 2002. Mannix won the primary but lost to Democrat Ted Kulongoski by fewer than 37,000 votes.

Also Saturday, Republicans elected Russ Walker as party vice chairman. Walker heads the Oregon chapter of Freedom Works.

That group, formerly known as Citizens for a Sound Economy, led a successful effort to refer a tax increase passed by the 2003 Legislature to the ballot, where voters defeated it in 2004.