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OR H17: Still out there

Speculating last month on Oregon State Representative Jeff Kropf’s dropout from his race (to pursue his activities in talk radio), we suggested the late opening on the Republican side might offer some opening for a Democrat in this generally Republican district.

Now that the race is joined with a replacement Republican, our view is pretty much unchanged. The contest may lean Republican, but only just, and a Democratic win there is distinctly possible.

The big roadblock to that is the district itself. House District 17 runs through the eastern parts of Marion and Linn counties, up into the Cascades, and includes mainly farming and old-line timber communities, though there is some change in a number of the towns. Party registration in the district is 43% Republican to 34% Democratic, and though party registration figures aren’t always a good guide to election results, this area has been voting more Republican than the state overall. It has not been doing so as overwhelmingly as, say, most areas east of the Cascades.

Meeting in Scio, the local Republicans have just replaced Kropf with Fred Girod of Lyons, a dentist who served in the House in the early 90s. Girod has campaigned before and served in the House before, and that’s a plus.

There are also minuses. He has had some conflicts locally, notably earlier this month with the Stayton City Council, which denied an application of his to build a commercial center there; it said he was effectively asking the city to rezone a key area. He’s been out of office for quite a while, and his name ID may not be especially high. He is starting a race from scratch; there is, for example, no web site up yet.

The Democrat, Dan Thackaberry, had run a quiet campaign up until Kropf’s departure – maybe reflecting the consensus that Kropf was highly likely to win. he appears to have ramped up rapidly since, and he has something of a base to work from . He’s a farmer, which provides some business base and connections, and also a member of the city council at Lebanon, the largest city in the district – a decent homre base from which to start. Thackaberry’s web site calls him “Farmer Dan,” and he appears to come off as friendly and easy going. His head start on Girod is not large, but it is real.

Still a small Republican edge here, but not a district to write off.

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