The GOP seeks a primary candidate to succeed Rep. Tootie Smith.

Five Republicans are jostling to succeed Tootie Smith in representing House District 18. The most promising is Chris Blackburn, a teacher and Silverton City Council member.

The winner of the May 18 primary will face Democrat Jim Gilbert of Molalla in the November general election.

Smith gave up her House seat to run for Clackamas County commissioner. Whoever takes her place must match her appeal to conservatives in this mostly rural district, which covers Silverton, Aurora, Donald, Hubbard, Mount Angel, Scotts Mills and part of Clackamas County.

Blackburn teaches government at Silverton High School and coaches women’s basketball at Willamette University. His familiarity with schools would be a plus, given the attention that the Legislature must devote to education.

He is a thoughtful person who enjoys politics — both as a matter for study and personal service. He has gained local experience through four years on his hometown’s City Council and budget committee. Now, he is looking to the next level.

Blackburn favors a rainy-day fund and a spending cap that is not written into the state constitution. He thinks that state leaders should have cut expenses further rather than seek additional taxes. His supporters include the political action committee for Oregon Citizens for Sound Economy, the group behind the antitax referendum that became Measure 30.

The Statesman Journal editorial board’s second choice is Mac Sumner of Molalla. He finished second to Smith in the Republican primary of 2000. This time, he has her endorsement.

Sumner, a retired warehouse worker for Safeway, was mayor of Molalla for two years. He has served on the City Council since 1997. He comes across as a guy willing to listen to all sides but appears hesitant to express strong views of his own.

Sumner wants the Legislature to pass the K-12 budget promptly so schools know how much money they will have. He favors less government intrusion, especially in the area of land-use restrictions.

The remaining candidates are:

# James Buchal of Hubbard, a lawyer and author of “The Great Salmon Hoax.” He favors more logging, less involvement by the state in schools and wholesale pruning of state agencies.

# Mark Greenhalgh-Johnson of Silverton. His three part-time jobs include work as an independent computer trainer. He believes that government should be less involved in schools, land use and citizens’ lives.

# Doug Morgan of Silverton, a mobile-phone company rep who owns a newspaper distributorship. He has spent eight years on his school district’s budget committee. He favors returning schools to more local control.

The Statesman Journal editorial board endorses Chris Blackburn as the candidate to best represent District 18 Republicans in the November election.