Oregon House Bill 2429 is a tribute to Doug and Gail Whitsett. But it's not for the work the married Republicans did to represent their districts in Eastern Oregon. It's for the way the Whitsetts effectively picked their successors.
Just minutes before the filing deadline for the Republican primary in March, former Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum filed for Doug Whitsett's Senate seat. Businessman Eric "Werner" Reschke filed for Gail Whitsett's House seat. Then, the day after the deadline, both Whitsetts pulled out of their respective races.
The Whitsetts, Linthicum and Reschke insisted they had done nothing wrong. But plenty of people thought it looked wrong.
It was wrong. Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, the House minority leader, said he might have filed to run for Doug Whitsett's Senate seat if he had known Whitsett did not plan to run. It was unfair to McLane and anyone else who thought about running but perhaps did not want to challenge an incumbent.
Democrats don't do well in that part of Oregon. The Republican primary can be the only real contest. Both Linthicum and Reschke went on to win their elections relatively comfortably.
This legislative session, State Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, introduced HB 2429 to attempt to prevent a similar thing from happening again. The bill gives office-seekers more time to apply if an incumbent state senator or state representative files for re-election and then withdraws.
It doesn't matter if there was a deal or not in the withdrawal of the Whitsetts. Voters should pick who represents them. The incumbent officeholder should not be able to game the process to influence his or her successor. Lawmakers should pass HB 2429.