By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Fewer candidates on Oregon ballots

Locally, the 2020 primary election featured high drama; statewide, it was ho-hum. To some extent, the Yamhill County theatrics help explain the statewide political boredom.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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A majority of state candidates nominated or elected this week ran unopposed. Three reasons come to mind: advantage of incumbency; high cost of campaigns; and exposure to ruthless politics.

Outside special-interest money flowed into the controversial Yamhill County commissioner race, and candidate Barbara Boyer’s past personal mistakes were laid bare in a hard-knuckle campaign. Boyer owned her embarrassment and handled the situation gracefully. As for losing the race, her more important personal priority this spring has been driving her spouse to Portland daily for life-sustaining medical treatments.

Commissioner-elect Lindsay Berschauer awaits final confirmation of the vote count, then seven months before taking office in January 2021. Political views she shares with incumbent Commissioner Mary Starrett likely foretell some changes in county governance.

Advantages of incumbency are the No. 1 reason Republicans and Democrats contested only 19 of their 92 legislative primaries this week. Challengers are discouraged because incumbents generally enjoy dominance in name familiarity, access to special-interest funding, and a partisan base unlikely to switch horses in midstream.

Twenty-five of 32 Oregon Senate major party races were unopposed, including four without a single Republican candidate. Five races featured two candidates. Locally, four Democrats competed to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Brian Boquist in November.

On the House side, 48 of 60 major party races were unopposed and seven drew just two candidates. The exception was House District 17 between Salem and Sisters, where six Republicans sought nomination for a seat vacated when Democrat Sherrie Sprenger opted for a Marion County Commission run.

Statewide, 51 of 60 circuit court judgeships and 14 of 21 district attorney races were unopposed.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s retirement triggered a mad dash in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, with ballot places for five Democrats and 12 Republicans. Democrat Alex Spencer and Republican Cliff Bentz will compete in November, while incumbents are expected to win handily in four other U.S. House and one U.S. Senate races.

The only statewide contest of high interest follows a vacancy in the Secretary of State’s office. Still, only five major party candidates filed. Two state senators — Republican Kim Thatcher of Keizer and Democrat Shemia Fagan of Portland will face each other in November.

Portland, always the exception, produced a throng of city commission candidates, and incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler faces a runoff in November.

Overall, understandably, candidates aren’t flocking to Oregon ballots.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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