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Candidates speak to Benton GOP

Gazette-Times, Friday, March 7, 2008 - by Matt Neznanski, G-T Reporter
Mannix seeks Hooley’s spot - Philomath mayor, Salem Republican meet Benton GOP

Benton County Republicans had a look at two candidates Thursday night. Philomath Mayor Chris Nusbaum is hoping to move into a Benton County commissioner’s office, while campaign veteran Kevin Mannix is seeking U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley’s spot in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District.

Democrat Hooley recently announced that she will not seek re-election, and Republicans said it is a seat they can win.

“Why not run where the district fits like a glove?” said Mannix, who represented Salem in the state Legislature. Mannix has been unsuccessful in his two runs for state attorney general and two gubernatorial attempts. However, Salem and rural areas support him, he said Thursday.
Oregon’s 5th Congressional District includes a small part of Benton County, significant portions of Clackamas and Multnomah counties as well as all of Marion, Polk, Tillamook and Lincoln counties.

Mike Erickson, a wealthy businessman from Lake Oswego who ran against Hooley in 2006, already has entered the 5th District Republican race.

Mannix is known for sponsoring several tough-on-criminals initiatives, including Measure 11, which imposed mandatory-minimum prison sentences and led to increases in Oregon’s prison population and budget.

During his talk at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, most supported Mannix’s most recent initiatives, especially Initiative 40, which demands mandatory prison time for property offenses.

John Frohnmayer, an Oregon State University history professor who is running his own independent campaign for Senate, disagreed.

“What do you say to the idea that higher education gets less priority than prisons?” Frohnmayer asked.

Mannix said voters have broadly supported his initiatives. He cited their response as proof of support for the idea.

“I say, with democracy, to put it to the voters. Let them decide,” he said.

Democrats seeking the 5th District seat will decide a primary contest between state Sen. Kurt Schrader and political consultant Steve Marks. Jim Hill, the former state treasurer who ran for governor in 2006, has hinted that he, too, may enter the race.

Voter registration in the 5th District slightly favors Republicans, although the many nonaffiliated voters in the region have been siding with Democrats in recent elections.

In Benton County, the range is a bit wider. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 9 percent of registered voters, according to the county elections office. The disparity was not lost on Nusbaum.

“It’s going to be a tough, uphill battle,” he said. “I’m sure going to give it a heck of a try.”
Nusbaum is challenging incumbent Democrat Annabelle Jaramillo, who has been a Benton County commissioner since 2001. Jaramillo took office in 2000 with less than a 3 percent margin in the vote, but she won easily in 2004.

“The goal, of course, is to win,” Nusbaum said. “I think with a lot of hard work, we can finally break that glass ceiling in Benton County.” Nusbaum has served six years as mayor of Philomath.

The deadline to file for the primary is March 11. Ballots will be sent out about May 3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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