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Former Lane Commissioner appears to have won write-in nomination for House seat

Jerry Rust spoke during a press conference Tuesday in front of the Coos Bay City Hall.
Campaign handout
Jerry Rust spoke during a press conference Tuesday in front of the Coos Bay City Hall.

Former Lane County Commissioner Jerry Rust appears to have won the write-in nomination for a seat in the Oregon House.

No one filed to run in the Democratic primary for Oregon House District 9, which includes parts of Lane, Douglas and Coos Counties. That would typically have meant that Republican incumbent Boomer Wright would have a virtual lock on winning the general election in the fall.

But one day this spring, Rust said he was sitting at home when his phone rang.

"I was going through my seed packets getting ready to plant my organic garden," he said. "I got a call from a couple of Democrats saying 'We don't have a candidate. Would you consider it?'"

Rust served 20 years as a county commissioner from the mid-70's through the mid-90's. He also ran, unsuccessfully, for Oregon governor and U.S. Senate. Now retired and living along the Siuslaw River near Florence, he wasn't sure whether he wanted to jump back into politics. But he said the current political climate spurred him into action.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I sit back this summer and just watch the river go by, I’m going to kick myself for the rest of my life.’ I’ve got something to contribute and I’m going to get out there and give it a shot,” he said.

Rust put out the word that he was seeking write-in votes for the nomination, and when results were posted this month on county elections' websites in the district, he had, by far, the most write-in votes.

The results still need to be confirmed by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

Wright's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Republican was first elected to the Oregon House in 2020.

The 9th District is fairly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans holding a slight edge. Non-affiliated voters are the largest category of registrations in the district.

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.”