Political parties generally don't name favorites in open primaries. Oregon's fifth Congressional district is now an exception.
Republican businessman Mike Erickson is making a second bid against incumbent Democrat Darlene Hooley. And Erickson's already getting help from party apparatus. Colin Fogarty reports.
Republicans have always felt they had a shot at winning Oregon's fifth Congressional district. President Bush won the district twice.
Nonetheless, Democrat Darlene Hooley has beat Republican opponents six times, including her last race against Mike Erickson. But Republican Party chair Vance Day says the Tigard businessman got into that race late.
Vance Day: "Mike Erickson drew a lot of good attention last time. We think he can build on that. Now that he's starting early, he should have a much better chance of retiring Congresswoman Hooley."
Day is making sure Erickson gets that early start by signing what's called a Rule 11 letter.
Rule 11 — in the Republican National Committee's by-laws — prohibits the party from endorsing candidates in open primaries. But in this case, Erickson's political consultant Carey Evans says the Oregon GOP has granted an exception for Erickson.
Carey Evans: "The Rule 11 sends a signal to donors that the party's behind him. It also allows the party and speakers from the national level to fundraise for Mike, whereas they wouldn't really be able to if there were a primary opponent."
But Democratic Party of Oregon spokesman Marc Siegel says the early start is a sign of desperation among Republicans.
Marc Siegel: "And they realize that to have any chance to get his name out to be able to fight for votes they have to start early. So it's very unusual and it's a real sign of stress and worry on their part to do this."
But Republicans are emboldened because Hooley has only raised $200,000, a relatively small amount for an incumbent in a swing district. Hooley said she's concentrating less on re-election, and more on her work, now that Democrats are in the majority.
Darlene Hooley: "I'm in the first half of my first year. I would like to at least complete my first year and a few months of the second yet before I spend a lot of time thinking about re-election."
Even so, Republicans are already criticizing Hooley for remaining in Oregon two weeks after Congress's summer recess ended. But Hooley says she had eye surgery, which required a gas bubble to be placed behind her retina. Her doctors said it would be dangerous to fly before this week.
OPB | Feb. 22, 2017