Oregon’s 2014 Election Takes Shape after Filing Deadline – with a Few Surprises

By Pam Leavitt

Four days after the Oregon Legislature adjourned its 2014 session in March, candidates who planned to run for the House, Senate or statewide office were required to file campaign paperwork in Salem – and the Capital quickly went from policy work on a number of important bills to preparation for the May 20 primary race and November general election.

The campaign filings contained a few surprises. Among them:

  • After broad hints that he would run for governor or for Congress, Republican high-tech businessman Allen Alley opted for the sidelines. That gives Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) the inside track to run against Gov. John Kitzhaber in the fall.
  • Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian gets a free ride. The state’s labor commissioner, who was originally appointed to the job to fill a vacancy, has had to run for his office a lot because of a quirk in election law. As a result, he was first elected in 2008, re-elected in 2012 and is now up for election again. But for the first time, he did not draw an opponent.
  • Republican Reps. Jim Thompson of Dallas and Vic Gilliam of Silverton, two members who cross the aisle on social issues, both drew primary challengers for their seats.
  • Rep. Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro), who initially filed to run for re-election, dropped out of the race. That puts a competitive House District 29 in play. Susan McLain, a teacher at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, has filed for the Democratic primary.

With one open seat in the Senate — Republican Sen. Larry George of Sherwood is retiring — and 14 open seats in the House, one thing is certain: There will be a lot of new faces arriving for the 2015 legislative session.

Key Senate Races

The top Senate races in the 2014 election cycle include:

  • District 3: Sen. Alan Bates (D-Medford) vs. Republican Dave Dotterrer. The Democrats have a 38 percent-33 percent edge, but Dotterrer came within 300 votes in the 2010 election;
  • District 8: Sen. Betsy Close (R-Albany) vs. Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis). The Democrats  have a 40 percent-30 percent edge, and many expect Gelser to win;
  • District 20: Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby) vs. Democrat Jamie Damon. The Democrats have a 1-percent edge in the district, and Olson a freshman.
  • District 26: Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) vs. Democrat Robert Bruce. The Democrats have a 6-percent edge, and Thomsen is also a freshman.

House Open Seats

Here’s a list of legislators who decided not to return to the Oregon House. Some are running for local offices, some are moving to new jobs, and some are just retiring. All of the races to fill these seats should be decided in the primary, with the exception of Ben Unger’s seat in District 29.


  • District 2: Tim Freeman, running for county position;
  • District 3: Wally Hicks, new job offer;
  • District 4: Dennis Richardson, running for Governor;
  • District 7: Bruce Hanna, retiring — for now;
  • District 19: Kevin Cameron, running for county position;
  • District 20: Vicki Berger, retiring;
  • District 25: Kim Thatcher, running for state Senate;
  • District 54: Jason Conger, running for U.S. Senate;
  • District 58: Bob Jenson, retiring.


  • District 16: Sara Gelser, running for state Senate;
  • District 29: Ben Unger, new job offer;
  • District 34: Chris Harker, retiring;
  • District 42: Jules Bailey, running for local position;
  • District 50: Greg Matthews, new job offer.

In the Spotlight: Duane Stark

Republican Duane Stark is guaranteed a seat in the 2015 Oregon Legislature.

Duane Stark is running for the House District 4 seat being vacated by Dennis Richardson. As the only Republican candidate and with no Democratic opponent, he’ll be serving in the Legislature in the 2015 session.

Stark, the pastor of local and global outreach at River Valley Community Church in Grants Pass, was born and raised in southern Oregon. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree from Multnomah University. He is a relentless community advocate and planner, coordinating volunteers and nonprofits to work together with local government.

Stark has been married for more than 10 years and has three children. He and his wife are proud foster and adoptive parents.

Pam Leavitt is the Northwest Credit Union Association’s policy adviser for Oregon state and grassroots advocacy. Reach her at 503.887.2336 or pleavitt@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News.