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Haugen’s spot in history

Joel Haugen

Joel Haugen

The 1st District congressional candidate Joel Haugen has just done something genuinely unheard of, something apparently without precedent in the United States at least for quite a few decades into the recent past:

He gave up the nomination and ballot line of a major party to take the nomination and ballot line of a minor party. That’s just, simply, not done: We can think of no comparable case anywhere at least in a good many years. And Haugen (who comes across as professional, crisp and affable – probably a solid candidate given conventional money and organization) said this morning at his press conference announcing that it’ll probably do him more political damage than anything else, which may be right.

But maybe not all that much. Haugen has resigned – is that the right word? – the nomination of the Republican Party, whose leaders have made clear for some time that they’re appalled at him, and will run instead under the banner of the Independent Party of Oregon.

He makes clear, though, that he still is a registered Republican. The Republican Party leaders who have blocked him from fair booths and the like have some case, since Haugen has endorsed Democrats in the two top races on the ballot (Barack Obama for president and Jeff Merkley for Senate). But in dismissing him, they have the effect of making themselves look narrow, which sort of makes Haugen’s point.

As a side point, there’s real question about whether the Republicans, legally or practically, can fill their ballot slot in the 1st district. Odds are it will remain empty – a stunning turnaround in a district that not long ago was thought to be highly contestable.

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