Oregon News

Campaign 2024 in full swing, even if law says it’s too early to file

Oregon Capital Bureau

With the noisy, bitterly partisan 2023 session of the Legislature lurching to a close on the last possible day under the Oregon constitution, state politics can turn its attention to the noisy, bitterly partisan 2024 election.

The House and Senate dropped the gavel on July 25, the 160th day of the 160-day session.

Gov. Tina Kotek has 30 days after the adjournment to sift through the approximately 500 bills that made it to her desk, with four out of five arriving the last two weeks before the session end.

Focus shifts to 2024 election

Oregon politicians didn’t wait until the end of the session to start jockeying for the 2024 election.

On the ballot: three Oregon executive offices — secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general — as well as six congressional seats, 60 Oregon House seats, about half of the 30 Oregon Senate seats, as well as judges, sheriffs, county commissioners and other local offices. Neither U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot in 2024.

At the top of the ballot is the presidential election, which could feature a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, a race that has previously increased voter turnout in Oregon, mostly to Democrats’ advantage.

Candidates jump into Portland-to-Bend congressional race

National Democratic and GOP groups are targeting three freshman U.S. House members elected in 2022, two Democrats and one Republican.

At the top of Democrats’ wish list is to flip back the 5th Congressional District, won in 2022 by now U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Happy Valley.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put Chavez-DeRemer at near the top of the list of new lawmakers it wants to oust.

The GOP freshmen “have worked hand in hand with Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy to enable the most dangerous wings of their party to threaten our jobs, roll back women’s freedoms, endanger Americans’ economic security, and prioritize politics over people,” said DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene of Washington.

The National Republican Congressional Caucus has U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Tigard and U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Springfield, on its list of 37 targeted districts.

“Republicans are in the majority and on offense,” NRCC Chair Richard Hudson said in a recent statement. 

The GOP has a four-seat majority in the House, while Democrats control the U.S. Senate and White House.

The main action in Oregon so far has been in the 5th Congressional District, which runs from Portland to Bend.

Metro President Lynn Peterson and Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, announced they planned to run for the 5th Congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Happy Valley.

A rally in Bend scheduled for Saturday where Terrebonne attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner was expected to add her name to the 5th district Democratic primary lineup was postponed after the candidate tested positive for COVID-19.

Showdown looms when filing for state offices opens

While several politicians have announced they are running for state office, for the most part it is a symbolic gesture for the next nine weeks. 

Under state law, candidates for all statewide, local and federal offices can’t officially file to run until Sept. 14.  Candidates have until 5 p.m. on March 12, 2024 to file for office in time to get on the May 21 primary ballot. The general election will be Nov. 5.

An early test will come around Sept. 14 when House Republican Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and four other senators are expected to file for re-election in the 2024 election. Knopp told Oregon Public Broadcasting last week that he will file as early as possible to run for another four-year term.

Voters passed Measure 113 in 2022 that bars lawmakers who miss 10 or more days of floor sessions without an excuse from being re-elected to their office. Nine Republicans and one conservative Independent surpassed the 10 unexcused absences during the 42-day Senate Republican walkout.

The seats of six of the senators are on the ballot in 2024. Along with Knopp, Republican Sens. Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls and Art Robinson of Cave Junction have said they plan to seek another term. So did Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, elected as a Republican but now an Independent Party senator who frequently votes with Republicans. Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, has not made a definitive statement on his plans for 2024. Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, had previously announced he would not seek another term in 2024.

The situation sets up a showdown between the senators and new Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade. The former elected Portland city auditor was appointed last week by Kotek to fill out the remainder of the term of Shemia Fagan, who resigned in May amid a conflict-of-interest scandal. 

Ben Morris, spokesman for the office of secretary of state, said May 25, before Griffin-Vlade took over the position as the state’s top election official, that a candidate who doesn’t qualify for an office if they won wouldn’t be allowed to file.

“If a candidate is not eligible to hold office, the courts have interpreted election statutes to mean that the filing officer can’t allow them on the ballot,” Morris said.

Republicans have vowed to take the issue to court, claiming the wording of the measure was too sloppy to require that the senators not run in 2024 and that the entire law may be a violation of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.

Candidates can raise money before officially filing for office

The state election system creates a two-track system for candidates. While formal statements of candidacy won’t be accepted until Sept. 14, candidates can create campaign finance committees at any time. Incumbents retain their committees from the last election, then file an update to direct funds to the next election.

As of Saturday morning, the Elections Division of the Secretary of State lists 73 political action committees raising and spending money for the May 2024 May primary. The list includes 46 candidate-campaign finance committees for the May 2024 primary. Another 27 political action campaigns — political party and special interest PACs — have also been created specifically for the May primary. The vast majority of incumbent statewide officeholders and legislators have yet to update their committee status, but continue to raise funds under the committee from the last election.

Unlike statewide executive offices and seats in the Legislature, candidates for Congress must also file a “statement of candidacy” when registering their campaign finance committee with the Federal Election Commission. In the eyes of the federal government, they are declared candidates. 

Federal laws govern receiving and spending campaign contributions in congressional races. A key date will be July 15, the deadline for candidates to file campaign finance reports for the second quarter of 2023. 

State offices fall under the more liberal limits of Oregon’s campaign finance laws that allow anyone to give any amount to a candidate or cause as long as it is recorded with the Secretary of State.

Another wrinkle: Candidates for the legislature must live in their districts. The U.S. Constitution says candidates for Congress must live in the state where they are running, but does not require residency within the district they are seeking to represent. In 2022, Chavez-DeRemer and Salinas won election despite living just outside their districts.

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