SALEM, Ore. -- No fewer than 17 Oregonians filed to run for governor in May's primary election by Tuesday's deadline, the most crowded field of candidates in at least two decades.
Ten Republicans are squaring off for the right to face incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, who herself will face two primary challengers. Four members of the Independent Party also are in a primary.
The candidates include business owners, real estate brokers, farmers, veterans, retirees and, of course, politicians.
"The governor is excited that so many people are filing to run for public office in Oregon. This is a sign of the strength of our democracy," said Thomas Wheatley, Brown's campaign adviser. "She looks forward to the ongoing discussion about our state's priorities."
Oregonians wanting to run for public office in May's primary election had to file with the Secretary of State by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Those who filed digitally were immediately public, but the Secretary of State's office says paper filings might take a few days to be added online.
Ballots will be due by May 15. The deadline to register to vote is April 24.
Some speculated that the historic number of candidates could be a result of the country's political uncertainty.
Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University in Forest Grove, said it isn't uncommon for an incumbent in Oregon to face a few primary opponents, but usually there aren't more than a handful of challengers running in the opposing party.
He speculated that some Republican candidates may be filing because front-runner Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, is a relative moderate.
Buehler has long been considered the favorite to challenge Brown in the general election, in large part due to his legislative experience and fundraising success. As of Tuesday, he had more than $1.8 million in his political action committee — far less than Brown's $3.1 million, though significantly more than his primary competition.
But at the annual conservative Dorchester Conference in Salem last week, Republican candidate Greg Wooldridge of Portland secured 40 percent support in a straw poll, topping Buehler by 11 points.
“If Republicans are serious about defeating failed Gov. Kate Brown they’ll back the consensus candidate Capt. Greg Wooldridge,” spokesman Jonathan Lockwood said.
The 70-year-old retired Navy pilot filed last month and currently has a little more than $50,000 on hand — nearly half of that donated only days ago by Robert Freres, Jr. and his lumber company.
Among the other candidates is businessman Sam Carpenter of Bend — who has twice run for U.S. Senate and is campaigning with the tagline "Make Oregon Great Again." Carpenter is independently wealthy and has so far loaned his campaign $66,000, according to public campaign finance records. He placed third in that straw poll with 20 percent.
Moore said that by this point, with the election only a couple months away, if candidates aren't already raising money they may not have a legitimate chance to win. Most of the gubernatorial candidates that have filed have little in the way of on-hand funds.
"If they are not raising major amounts of money, they are more likely doing this for ego gratification rather than for a real chance to become governor," Moore said. "Without money for a credible campaign, ego gratification will be hard to come by."
Locally, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, will face his first primary challenge since he took office in 1999.
His opponent, Joyce Judy, specifically mentioned her support of making Oregon a national popular vote state as a reason she is running. Courtney is blamed by the National Popular Vote organization for halting legislation that would have changed the way Oregon votes in presidential campaigns.
This last session a bill that would have put to voters that decision died in committee. National Popular Vote has spent campaign donations against Courtney and launched an ad campaign against him.
In her statement announcing her candidacy, Judy focused on her disapproval of Courtney's leadership of the Senate.
“The people of Oregon deserve to be represented by senators who are unafraid of open dialogue and being accountable to how they vote," she said in a statement. "I am tired of this obstructionism and announce my candidacy to fight this mentality."
Courtney said that having more candidates in the race is ultimately healthy for Democracy and for himself. And while he hasn't had a primary opponent in some time, he said he's faced plenty of others.
"I always have opponents one way or another," Courtney said. "It's not like people don't know who I am, what I stand for."
Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, doesn't have a primary opponent, although two Democrats will face off for the right to challenge her in November. They are Deb Patterson of Salem and Timothy John Graham of Independence.
Candidates for governor:
Kate Brown – Portland
Ed Jones – Redmond
Candace Neville – Eugene
Skye Allen – Portland
Shawn Liebling – Eugene
Dan (Mr. P) Pistoresi – Lincoln City
Patrick Starnes – Brownsville
Keenan Bohach – Keizer
Knute Buehler – Bend
Sam Carpenter – Bend
Bruce Cuff – Lyons
Jonathan Edwards III – Gresham
Brett Hyland – Portland
Jeff Smith – Elgin
David Stauffer – Portland
Jack Tracy – Lebanon
Greg Wooldridge – Portland
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