Last week Chuck Riley was busy working the phones telling voters and supporters that his campaign’s internal polling showed a dead heat between he and Sen. Bruce Starr for SD-15 in Washington County.
Riley lost to Starr in 2010 in SD-15 by 4.5% – or 1,849 votes. The 2014 match up features the same candidates while the Democratic voter edge in SD-15 has actually decreased. So how can the Riley camp be optimistic? Because Senate District 15 will feature Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchell-Markley.
Ms. Mitchell-Markley is an attorney and a member of the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors. A not insignificant position. She is also married to Kyle Markley, Libertarian candidate in House District 30. Kyle Markley also ran for HD-30 in 2012 and was blamed by some Republicans for the defeat of HD-30 Republican incumbent Shawn Lindsay. Mr. Markley received 1,441 votes in 2012 and Lindsay ended up losing to Joe Gallegos by less than 1,200 votes.
However, there are some big difference between the HD-30 2012 race and this years SD-15 race.
In 2012 Kyle Markley ran a vigorous race. This election Caitlin Mitchell-Markley didn’t put a statement in the voters pamphlet and has raised less than $1,000 dollars. And, while Shawn Lindsay was a first term Representative Bruce Starr has been a high profile State Senator and Representative for over a decade. He has much better name familiarity, and deeper roots in the community, than Shawn Lindsay.
Dead heat? Yes, I can see a poll result with Starr holding a 3%- 4% margin advantage being within the margin of error and therefore a “dead heat”. Riley and Starr ran against each other last time and it was close. But While Ms. Mitchell-Markley’s name on the ballot will make some difference, with her less active campaign she won’t get the number of votes Kyle Markley was able to attract in 2010. And combined with the fact that the Democratic voter edge has compressed since 2010, and the familiarity of these two candidates, it means we’re likely to see a repeat of the 2010 election.
Unless that is . . . some dark money independent expenditure group decides to help out Ms. Mitchell-Markley with her campaign.
And a point on Measure 90 may be in order here. If 90 were in effect for 2014, the November race would feature Starr and Riley, with Mitchell-Markley knocked out in May. Instead we’ve got a general election with a Libertarian who has no chance of winning on the November ballot who could effectively “spoil” the election for the preferred candidate. The point being there is a cost to always allowing non viable minor party candidates on the general election ballot rather than requiring them to compete in a preliminary election.