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Legislative races come into focus for the fall

Democrats sit idle on the Oregon House floor as they await confirmation of a quorum with nearly all Republicans absent on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
Sam Stites
File photo of the Oregon House of Representatives.

With Oregon’s May primaries in the rear-view mirror, legislative candidates who emerged victorious can turn their attention to the general election.

No incumbents lost their primary races. In fact, few even faced a primary opponent. There will be competition in most general election match-ups, however.

But some primary winners don’t know yet if they’ll face anyone in November. That’s because elections officials don’t typically release the names of write-in votes until the elections are certified, which in this case, won’t be until mid-June.

For instance, in House District 9, which includes parts of western Lane and Douglas Counties, as well as northern Coos County, incumbent Rep. Boomer Wright, R-Reedsport, was the only candidate to file for the seat for either party.

Less than two weeks before the election, former Lane County Commissioner Jerry Rust announced a write-in campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the seat. Since no Democrats had filed to run in the district, Rust said he was attempting to counteract efforts by Wright to convince some Democrats to write his name in on the Democratic ballot.

That's a tactic commonly employed by incumbents when no candidate has filed in the opposing party's primary. If successful, it all but assures the incumbent of a general election victory, although occasionally third-parties also nominate candidates for legislative races.

In this case, more than 700 Democrats wrote in a name on the ballot in House District 9. More than half of those write-ins came in Lane County, and the County Clerk's office said information about write-ins won't be available until June 13. That means Wright doesn’t know yet who, if anyone, he’ll face in the fall. It could be the bulk of those names are for himself, or it could indicate that Rust's effort to secure the nomination have been successful.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”