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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Will Consider Washington's Top Two Primary System

Washington voters got another chance this week to take the state's relatively new Top Two primary system for a spin. This year Oregon voters will choose whether to shift to a similar method of choosing candidates.

The top two vote-getters in central Washington's fourth Congressional District were Clint Didier and Dan Newhouse. A Tri-Cities TV station noted, ”And that gives us right now two farmers squaring off later this year for a seat in Congress."

But Didier and Newhouse aren't just two farmers. They're two Republicans.

It's the first time a major political party will be shut out of a Congressional general election in Washington. It's scenarios like that that give political strategists in Oregon the shivers.

Opponents on the left and the right say Top Two primaries limit voter choices in the general election and make running for office more costly. But in another case of politics making strange bedfellows, both major party candidates for Oregon governor support the proposal.

Here's John Kitzhaber and Dennis Richardson at a recent debate.

"Yes, I do support the open primary,” Kizthaber said.

"The open primary is a good idea,” Richardson added. “We ought to seriously look at it."

Advocates say the Top Two primary would empower the nearly one-third of Oregon voters who don't belong to a political party. Right now those voters can't participate in partisan primaries.