Powerful State Senator Richard Devlin may face a challenge in November after all. Though no Republicans filed for Senate District 19 (Lake Oswego, Tualatin, West Linn), Independent Party Member Rick Miller has formed a committee and has conducted polling to test the viability of an Independent candidacy.
SD-19 registrations are: Democratic 43%; Republican 31%, Non Affiliated 21%, Independent Party 5%.
In 2010 Devlin easily defeated Conservative Charter School advocate Mary Kremer (spouse of Republican right wing activist Rob Kremer), 55% to 45%. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the District is reliably Democratic.
Back in 2010 Republican Steve Griffith, who polling showed would have likely been a much tougher general election opponent for Devlin, was defeated in the 2010 Republican primary by Kremer. Griffith had a stellar resume of accomplishment, including serving as Chair of the Portland School Board. But his candidacy ran into the conservative buzz saw that is now standard Oregon Republican primary politics.
Absent a surprising write in campaign for the Republican nomination, there will be no one appearing on the ballot in November as a Republican. If Millers polling is similar to Griffiths back in 2010 then a right of center moderate nominee of the Independent Party could result in a dynamic one on one general election. Particularly if Miller is intent on devoting even a small portion of his abundant assets to the race. In 2010, Devlin spent over a million dollars to protect his seat, while Kremer spent about $280,000 challenging him. If Miller decides to run, then the resources should be much more equal. And this could be the most expensive Legislative race in the history of Oregon politics.
Which brings up one interesting issue – Will Senator Devlin and Mr. Miller actively seek to secure the Republican nomination through a write in campaign? It could make sense for Miller to secure the Republican
nomination. Given Oregon’s cross nomination law, it would allow Miller the option – though not the requirement – of listing himself on the ballot as first an Independent, and secondly a Republican. While Devlin would never include the Republican nomination on his ballot line, he may want to prevent Miller from listing both nominations. More remotely, Devlin may even recruit a Republican write in candidate to campaign for the Republican nomination. That would be a potentially fatal blow to Millers candidacy. If a Republican write in candidate does suddenly appear in the next week, look for Devlin supporters to be financing that candidacy. Of course, I’d recommend they save their treasure for the general election. It’s going to get expensive.
UPDATE: 3:42 PM 4/17/14: Willamette Week has a nice article with a statement from Miller. And, if you read the comments section, it looks like Democratic forces have already started their personal smear campaign.