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Few Surprises, But Lots Of Good Races As Filing Day Ends

Oregon’s statewide filing deadline has come and gone. A furious series of last-minute filings in the Treasurer’s race and in Multnomah county have added spice to the primary season. 

Outside of that, the two major parties are getting ready to spar in several simmering legislative contests.

April Baer reports.

It’s going to be the kind of primary season in which friendships may be tested.

Ted Kulongoski: “One of the things in public life that you hold very close to you are true friends. People who you respect. You believe they are great public servants.”

Governor Ted Kulongoski acknowledged it was already happening, when he announced he’d chosen Ted Wheeler to take over as Oregon State Treasurer, following Ben Westlund’s death from cancer. Wheeler was one of two well-known politicians Kulongoski had on his short list.

Ted Kulongoski   “Probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do to a person that’s a friend is call and tell them I was not going to appoint them to this position.”

Wheeler will run this year to retain the appointment, with at least  three other candidates competing to take it from him: Democrats Rick Metzger, a State Senator, and Jim Hill, who served eight years as Treasurer, and who has been largely absent from politics since.

A Republican  State Senator, Chris Telfer, awaits the candidate who makes it past the Democratic primary.

Wheeler’s exit from Multnomah County also touched off a local scramble to file.

Jeff Cogen is running to replace Wheeler. He’s an experienced politician who holds a non-executive seat on the Commission.

Margaret Carter, a well-known State Senator who retired from the Legislature last year is also in the race.

Attorney and activist Steve Novick was  interested, but opted late Tuesday afternoon not to file.

Jim Moore: “Last time we saw something like this was the replacement election for Bob Packwood.”

Jim Moore teaches politics and government at Pacific University. He can’t remember a primary season like this for years.

Jim Moore  “All of  a sudden you had people running for Bob Packwood’s Senate seat. It echoed down almost to Portland City Council races. People moved around to  figure out who would run for what and when.“

Moore says part of what’s remarkable is the timing of Westlund’s passing, so close to the filing deadline.

Also, Oregon’s political climate tends to favor incumbents, who figure they might as well try their luck.

Incumbents in Oregon’s Congressional contests have been preparing for this filing deadline for a long time.

Few surprises cropped up, save a late filing in the 4th District by Art Robinson, a Republican scientist best known for his contributions to homeschooling literature, and for his skepticism about global warming. He’s seeking the seat held by Democratic incumbent Peter Defazio.  

Republican State legislator Scott Bruun  is preparing for the primary, in hopes of challenging first-term Democratic Congressmen Kurt Schrader in the 5th District.

Three Republican candidates will face off in a primary for Democrat Congressman David Wu’s district. 

One GOP hopeful is Rob Cornellies, who’s made powerful friends in the national party.

If there’s a theme to this year’s legislative contests, it may be 2010: the "Year to Take Nothing for Granted".

Randall Edwards, who preceeded Ben Westlund in the State Treasurer’s office, sees an extremely dynamic year ahead. And it’s not just coming from the influx of last-minute candidates.

Randall Edwards: “In the scheme of the entire nation, and looking at races around the country and the political dynamic in general, it’s an interesting political year.”

He cites the new faces getting leverage on the right through the Tea Party movement, and incumbents concerned about re-election.

And a recent poll finds Oregonians critical of state government. The public radio poll found 52 percent of Oregon respondents think the state is on the wrong track.

Rick Williams, retiree from the lumber business, is one of several respondents worrying about the economy, and how elected officials react to it.

Rick Williams: “Years ago, when Weyerhauser shut down their factory in Cottage Grove, the Mayor said no problem, we’re building two new motels. The woodworker makes a lot more money than the common laborer at a motel. That’s the thinking of politicians in this state.”

The poll is a collaboration of the Northwest Health Foundation, Davis Hibbits and Midghall, and public radio stations across the Northwest, including OPB.

Brent Barton is a freshman state legislator in rural Clackamas County, who’s giving up his seat to run for an open seat in the State Senate. He says the message from voters like Williams is loud and clear.

Brent Barton: “I think the mood of the electorate now is not dissimilar than what it was in 2008. It’s just a different party’s in charge. People are frustrated, there’s an extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

For Barton – who’s a Democrat, the implications are obvious. He says he tries to explain to people that while he’s in the majority party, at 30, he’s young enough to be a change agent. One of the candidates trying to scoop up Barton’s seat, takes away a different message.

Patrick Sheehan: ”I position myself as what I am, a principled conservative.”

Patrick Sheehan is a Republican who runs an ad and web design agency, when he’s not running for House District 51. He predicts voters lured by the Democratic party in 2008 will be ready to listen to Republican candidates again.

Of course, the big race is the Governor’s matchup. Democrats John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury are the top Democratic fundraisers so far in a four-way primary.

Republicans Chris Dudley and Allen Alley are among nine candidates competing for the GOP nomination.

Primary voting ends May 18th.