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Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Gunning for Darlene

Emma at The Oregon Blog had an interesting post the other day about the several Republicans who are lining up to try to take on Darlene Hooley in '04. Hooley is the incumbent Democratic congressperson from Oregon's Fifth District, which is pretty evenly split between the two major parties, but with the Republicans having a slight edge in registered voters. Her seat is never safe.

The latest entrant is Jackie Winters, a state senator from Salem, who will run in the primary against Dallas businessman Brian Boquist; Lake Oswego attorney Jim Zupancic; and who knows whom else.

I don't know much about Winters, but anyone who owns a barbecue joint called Jackie's Ribs can't be all bad. In the legislative session just ended, she voted yes on 16 of the 18 key bills that The Oregonian used to define the session. She recorded 0 no votes on those measures, with one excused absence and another absence on legislative business. That put her right at the top of my list of senators who either most influenced the session or most often went along for the ride. By that yardstick, Winters is in the moderate camp, or even the liberal camp (if it can be called that), of the party.

But Zupancic also has support in the moderate wing. He's already got the endorsement of Jack Roberts, the former state Labor Commissioner who's been telling it like it is to the more extreme (but currently prevailing) elements of the Oregon GOP. Roberts ran against Kevin Mannix in the last gubernatorial primary by pointing out, quite correctly, that Mannix "can't win." Now he says that Zupancic's the man to unseat Hooley. But Zupancic lost to my good friend Greg MacPherson in the race for the State House of Representatives seat in his district last time around. Which makes you wonder how he'd do against Hooley in the larger federal congressional district.

Rounding out the field to date is Boquist, whom Hooley pretty easily defeated in '02. He's a former lieutenant colonel in the Green Beret with six kids and a Tillamook dairy background. It doesn't look as though he's got an '04 web site up yet, although his '02 site is still there for our perusal. He's a fighter, and has been known to sling mud at Hooley pretty freely.

Can any of these candidates wrest that seat from the incumbent? The fact that there are three of them competing with each other certainly doesn't show a strong, unified front so far.

Winters's arrival on the scene can't be good news for Zupancic. Just as Ron Saxton and Roberts cancelled each other out in the last governor's race, paving the way for Mannix's unsuccessful right-wing candidacy, Winters and Zupancic could wind up splitting the moderate vote in the primary and handing the reins over to Boquist once again.

And then there's the other traditionally hot Oregon congressional seat -- the First, where Dr. Wu currently rules the roost. He stomped his opposition last time out, but he's lost some friends over the intervening year. That's a post for another day.

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.: Coincidentally, the Portland Tribune has a front-page story today analyzing Wu's re-election prospects. I got the blog shining, I tell ya.

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