Former Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial failed Saturday in his long-shot attempt to qualify for the November ballot via rarely used provision of state law.

Vial, who had hoped to run as a nonpartisan candidate for secretary of state this year, fell short of gathering 1,000 registered voters in a Beaverton farm field. Organizers of the event said a little more than half that showed up, waiting in their cars while Vial spoke to them via an FM radio transmitter — a drive-in movie theater style set-up conceived as a concession to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Folks, we’re just a little over 500,” Vial announced just after 10:45 a.m., 15 minutes before a self-imposed deadline he’d set to hit his goal. “We’re not going to get to 1,000.”

Former lawmaker Rich Vial addresses supporters in Beaverton, Ore., on July 25, 2020. Vial's attempt to land on the 2020 ballot for secretary of state via an "assembly of electors" came up short.

Former lawmaker Rich Vial addresses supporters in Beaverton, Ore., on July 25, 2020. Vial's attempt to land on the 2020 ballot for secretary of state via an "assembly of electors" came up short.

Dirk VanderHart / OPB

Vial was hoping to become the first candidate in more than 35 years to make the secretary of state ballot via a statute that allows nominations via an “assembly of electors.” Had he succeeded in gathering 1,000 voters at the same place, at the same time, to signal their support for his candidacy, Vial would have been placed on the November ballot as a nonpartisan candidate.

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The former Republican lawmaker, who served as Republican Secretary of State Bev Clarno’s top deputy until earlier this year, has said recently he’s grown disillusioned with the two-party system. He was widely expected to pursue the Republican nomination for the seat, but instead opted for a more difficult path to the ballot.

Vial’s failure Saturday likely cements the race for the state’s second-highest executive office. State Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keiser, ran largely unopposed in her party’s primary for the seat. State Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, edged out two other candidates in a highly competitive Democratic primary.  Nathalie Paravinci, a Portland naturopath, is also pursuing the seat as a candidate for the Pacific Green and Progressive parties.

Democrats have made securing the secretary of state’s office a focal point this year, after losing it in 2016. The secretary could have an outsize role in determining the boundaries of the state’s legislative and congressional districts when they are redrawn next year.

Supporters of Rich Vial listen to his remarks via their radios on July 25, 2020. Vial attempted to gather 1,000 registered voters to nominate him for the November 2020 ballot.

Supporters of Rich Vial listen to his remarks via their radios on July 25, 2020. Vial attempted to gather 1,000 registered voters to nominate him for the November 2020 ballot.

Dirk VanderHart/OPB

At Saturday’s event, dozens of cars waited in a 40-acre grass-seed field, neatly arranged by campaign staffers. Many attendees sent questions to Vial via text message, which he answered from a stage at the front of the gathering. Those answers were broadcast to vehicles’ FM radios.

But with 11 a.m. nearing, Vial did not prolong what appeared to be inevitable.

“I really feel blessed,” he said, choking up, after he announced the effort had failed. “I’m the luckiest guy I know. I’ve got a good family. I’ve got good friends. I’ve had amazing opportunities to do all sorts of fun things. Not sure that this will be my last attempt at politics but we’ll have to give that a few days before I make any announcement in that regard.”

Drivers honked in support, and filed out of the field.

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