The Oregon governor's race won't necessarily be close. The default assumption here is that Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski will win it by a significant margin still far short of a landslide; and that much of the chatter against him generates more from activists on the left and right than from the large voting populace.
But the situation is fluid enough that it could easily turn out otherwise. A reminder of that came with the opening of the gubernatorial campaign of Joe Keating - of the Pacific Green Party.
Republicans have been touting this one. They point that, after all, four years ago the Greens declined to run a candidate (former Democratic U.S. Representative Jim Weaver had been mentioned) because they didn't want to risk a Republican winning the office. And they point out that the Libertarians, who had no such compunction about the election of a Democrat, ran and may have siphoned off enough Republican votes to elect Kulongoski. (Doubtful, in our opinion, but possible.) and the Libertarian candidate of 2002 has become a support this year of Republican candidate Kevin Mannix.
For Keating's part, news reports have quoted him as being unconcerned about whether his entry hurts Kulongoski's chances: He's among the disaffected.
However, as an AP story out today soundly notes, there's more to the picture.
The Libertarians won't have the same nominee but say they will be back in the race. And the right will also have the presence of the Constitution Party. That group absented itself from the governor's race in 2002 at the request of some Republicans, just as the Greens did at the request of Democrats.
The big new factor this year is likely to be the entry of Independent Ben Westlund of Tumalo. But it's anyone's guess - and there are good arguments both ways - whether he will draw more from the Democratic or Republican side of the fence. Maybe he'll draw more or less evenly.
Score so far on the fringe party wars: No discerniable change.