Bill would fix candidate filing rules

Democrats and Republicans in the Oregon Legislature frequently disagree on any number of issues. But when it comes to the integrity of the Legislature itself, they should be on the same page.

A bill introduced Thursday with bipartisan support seeks to prevent a repeat of the unseemly practice of lawmakers hand-picking their successors by manipulating the candidate filing process. It should pass.

The measure, sponsored by House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, is a direct response to what happened in Senate District 28 and House District 56 last March. The incumbents in those seats at the time, Sen. Doug Whitsett and his wife, Rep. Gail Whitsett, both Klamath Falls Republicans, had filed for re-election in fall 2015. In March 2016, minutes before the filing deadline, two Republican candidates filed, one for each seat. The next day, the Whitsetts announced they were retiring from the Legislature and withdrawing from the race, leaving those two candidates unopposed.

One of the people who would have been interested in running for the Senate District 28 seat was McLane, who was as surprised as anyone to learn the Whitsetts were withdrawing.

McLane's bill, HB 2945, would require that if an incumbent withdraws from a race within three days of the filing deadline, the filing deadline will be extended so three full days are available for new candidates to file. If an incumbent withdraws after the filing deadline, a special three-day filing period will automatically open.

The bill is co-sponsored by House Democratic Leader Jennifer Williamson, Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli and Senate Democratic Leader Ginny Burdick. It should pass, so future elections are open to all interested candidates, not just a chosen few.

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