Republican Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins, who faces a steep uphill battle against Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, lost her legal bid Tuesday to have another rival — Libertarian Gary Dye — removed from the November ballot.
Marion County Circuit Judge Channing Bennett rejected Perkins' attempt to argue that Dye had been improperly nominated by the Libertarian Party of Oregon, which has long been embroiled in a factional dispute over the leadership of the party and its rules.
The decision came as a relief to state officials, who warned that changing the fall election line-up at this point could make it hard to get ballots printed and shipped to voters on time, particularly this year when the elections system is already stressed by the pandemic and the recent wildfires. The action requested by Perkins “would simply wreak havoc on our elections,” Deanna Chang, a senior assistant attorney general, told the judge.
Portland attorney James Buchal, who represented Perkins, said no decision has been made yet on whether to appeal. But time is running short. State Elections Director Stephen Trout said in a court filing that counties have to mail ballots to military and overseas voters by this Saturday and that any delay could complicate the timeline for printing and sending ballots to the rest of the state’s 2.8 million voters.
In her lawsuit, Perkins argued that the secretary of state back in 2011 improperly allowed one Libertarian faction — headed by former state chairman Wes Wagner — to change the party rules and since then has consistently allowed candidates nominated under those rules to claim the Libertarian spot on the ballot.
Buchal argued that Perkins is the candidate most harmed by Dye’s candidacy and that if he is not on the ballot, “Ms. Perkins will almost certainly pick up those votes.”
Candidates from the Libertarian and Republican parties often don’t agree on all issues, but they tend to see eye-to-eye on shrinking the role of government. As a result, Republican candidates often worry that Libertarians can pull away enough votes to affect a close election.
Judge Bennett said Perkins wasn’t successfully able to show any new evidence that past decisions by elections officials over the last decade should be overturned.
In the U.S. Senate race, there’s been no indication that Merkley is facing a close race. Perkins has raised very little money, and the major political handicappers have rated the seat as safely Democratic. Perkins has received some national attention for being among a growing number of GOP candidates who say they are followers of QAnon. That’s the loose-knit online community that has expressed support for various conspiracy theories, including that the world is secretly dominated by a shadowy cabal involved in child sex trafficking.
In addition to Dye, a Portland engineer, there is one other minor-party candidate on the ballot. Ibrahim Tahir, a teacher from Eugene, is the nominee of both the Pacific Green and Progressive parties.