By editorial board • 

The fix is in when it comes to filling 'open' legislative seats

On the surface, Sen. Doug Whitsett, Republican from conservative-leaning Klamath Falls, would seem to have little in common with Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, Democrat from liberal-leaning Portland.

And what could possibility lump Doug’s spouse, Republican Rep. Gail Whitsett, with Democratic Rep. Joe Gallegos, a Latino from urban Hillsboro? Or put Republican Reps. Jim Weidner of Yamhill, Wayne Krieger of Gold Beach and John Davis of Wilsonville in the same camp with Democratic Rep. Shemia Fagan of Clackamas?

Only one thing — a predilection for treating legislative seats as personal heritages they can bestow on a successor in cynical secrecy. They seem to regard their station as something akin to a barony in the tradition-laden mother country, which still operates with a royal House of Lords.

Didn’t we stage a revolution to break the shackles of monarchy and establish a democracy? Didn’t we create a government of the people, by the people and for the people, placing our faith in the common folk to pluck leaders from their own ranks?

The Whitsetts filed for re-election months in advance, giving every appearance of intending to soldier on. In a state where incumbents are virtually assured of re-election, even in the face of scandal and malfeasance, that served to deter others.

That’s particularly true of would-be filers of Democratic or Independent affiliation, as the Whitsett districts vote lopsidedly Republican. But it also put off fellow Republicans like House Minority Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte, holder of the House district representing the other half of Doug’s Senate district.

As it turned out, the Whitsetts had recruited and anointed successors behind the scenes, a pair of conservative Republicans who waited until moments before the filing deadline to emerge from the shadows. The next morning, the Whitsetts withdrew, leaving the field to their chosen heirs.

So much for democracy in action. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the new duo, Dennis Linthicum and Eric Reschke, cap several terms of unthreatened service by pulling the same cynical stunt.

After all, when Krieger bestowed his legislative seat on David Brock Smith, Smith responded by bestowing his Currey County commission seat on David Itzen. The disease is clearly catching.

Here in Yamhill County, in a similar but far less egregious act, Rep. Jim Weidner anointed former McMinnville Police Chief Ron Noble as the GOP candidate.

While Noble is honorable, civic-minded and well-informed, we don’t believe the seat was Weidner’s to bestow. We think the voters deserved an unfettered, untainted choice. And we think true Tea Party patriots would agree with us.

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