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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's Newest Major Party Prepares For First Primary

M.O. Stevens
Wikimedia -

Tuesday afternoon is the deadline for candidates to file to appear on the May primary ballot in Oregon. It also marks a milestone for the state's newest major political party.

For the first time in its nearly decade-long history, the Independent Party of Oregon will hold a taxpayer-funded primary to select its candidates -- just like Democrats and Republicans. Except the Independent Party has just a small fraction of the number of candidates of the traditional two major parties.

"We are a smaller party than the Democrats and Republicans so we set goals that we thought were a little more realistic in terms of how many people we could recruit,” Independent Party of Oregon Secretary Sal Peralta said.

The party has at least five candidates for statewide office. That means each of its 110,000 members will get a primary ballot.

The Independent Party officially became a major party last August. Candidates who want to run in the May primary have to have been a registered member of the party since last September.

As of late Monday, there is only one race in which Independent Party members will see a contested primary: Its nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Ron Wyden. The primary features Marvin Sandnes and Steven Reynolds, who have both sought office on multiple occasions in the past.

Sandnes has run for the U.S. House of Representative and the Oregon House of Representatives first as a Republican, and later as a member of the Independent Party when it was still considered a minor party.

Sandnes said he's under no illusion that he'll be victorious in his quest to unseat Wyden. He said he's running so he can have a platform to discuss the United States' continued involvement in Afghanistan.

"We're still there and we don't talk about it," the Salem real estate manager said.

Reynolds is an Army veteran from Portland who previously ran for the U.S. House of Representatives three times, winning nominations from the Pacific Green, Progressive and Libertarian parties. He could not be reached for comment.

UPDATE: There is now a contested Independent Party primary for Governor. About two hours before the filing deadline, Patrick Barney, a Certified Nurses Assistant from Gresham, filed his candidacy paperwork. He joins Cliff Thomason, a businessman from Grants Pass.