When Sen. Chip Shields (SD22-Portland) announced he wasn’t running for re-election and Rep. Lou Frederick (HD43-Portland) announced his intent to run for that seat, Frederick’s seat became in play. In a city with may more ambitious Democrats than available positions we may expect several candidates in the May primary.
HD43 is 61% Democratic and 5% Republican so commonplace for the winner of the Democratic primary to start ordering furniture to their Legislative office in Salem. And typically in these deep blue PDX districts, the Democratic nominee even wins the GOP nomination with a handful of write ins. So all the non Democratic voters end up with basically no viable choices in November.
So far two candidates have announced for the Democratic HD43 nomination
Tawna Sanchez, is the Family Services Director at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA Family Center). And Roberta Phillip-Robbins, a youth and gang violence prevention specialist for Multnomah County.
Both seem highly qualified and capable. Judging only from their websites Ms. Phillio-Robins has garnered much of her support from the Democratic party stalwarts. A check of her ORESTAR finanical reports confirms that. On Ms. Sanchez’s endorsement page, she lists community activists, parents, educators and small business owners. Ms. Sanchez hasn’t filed any financial reports with ORESTAR yet.
A few other office seekers may jump into this race, but these two candidates seem likely to be at the top given their early start, qualifications and endorsements.
If we had a top two system, these two fine candidates would likely be on the November ballot and HD43 voters would get to choose between them. But we don’t, so one of these two candidates will likely be the Democratic nominee and presumptive new State Representative. That means that just 61% of HD43 voters will be able to vote for their next State representative.
Unless that is, one of these two candidates likes their chances better among 100% of the electorate in November. In which case, they could withdraw their candidacy for the Democratic nomination just prior to the deadline, then run as a write in candidate for the Independent Party nomination. (Because of Oregon’s “sore loser law” a candidate can’t run for and lose the nomination for their own party and then later get the nomination of another party).
My guess is that Ms. Phillips-Robbins wouldn’t consider such a strategy since she seems more invested in the Democratic Party and leadership would definitely frown on such a strategy. But a better case could be made to Ms. Sanchez that come March 2016, if her chances for the Democratic nomination seemed slim, running as an Independent could be the best path to a November victory. Particularly since the IPO has opened up it’s primary and non affiliated voters will be allowed to vote on an IPO ballot.
And, if she ran as a write in candidate, there would be no need for her to change her own voter registration. She could remain a registered Democrat, and if she won, she could caucus with the Democratic Party in Salem.
Utilizing the May primary ballot access won by the IPO and now open to all IPO and NAV voters could be a viable path for non career progressives to challenge Democratic party insiders in Portland area districts. It is not an option for those who seek a political career are are tied to the Democratic Party apparatus. But for Democrats who genuinely seek to be citizen legislators, it is a path that is legal, logical, and smart.
And wouldn’t democracy be better served if 100% of the voters were able to choose between these two qualified candidates in November and whoever is elected is beholden to all the voters of HD43 and not just active Democrats?