Wanted: Viable candidate living within Senate District 28 or House District 56 to defeat current Republican candidates for the May primary election.
Qualifications: A person voters will know and feel comfortable supporting, preferably able to work with a Democrat-held legislature in Salem. Must be comfortable running a write-in campaign and able to garner votes from conservatives, liberals and independents.
See local vetting committee for more details.
Such was the take-away from Wednesday morning's meeting at Elmer's Restaurant in Klamath Falls, where residents discussed alternatives to Dennis Linthicum and Werner Reschke running for state legislature. Linthicum and Reschke filed for positions currently held by Sen. Doug Whitsett and Rep. Gail Whitsett, respectively.
Though the Whitsetts filed for re-election in October, they withdrew the day after the filing deadline, while Linthicum and Reschke filed just minutes before the filing period closed.
Critics believe this was an orchestrated effort to block others from filing, and local voters discussed counter-measures Wednesday to prevent Linthicum and Reschke from being elected. Critics claim both would be ineffective for the Basin due to their extreme right-wing stance.
'Solve the problem'
“That's the purpose of my calling this meeting, to get everyone coalesced in some fashion to solve the problem at hand,” Klamath Falls Mayor Todd Kellstrom told about 40 people who attended; a mixture of Democratic, Republican and Independent party members.
(Neither the Whitsetts nor Linthicum have responded to repeated requests from Herald and News for comment. Reschke said, on the topic of Wednesday's meeting, he had no comment and referred additional questions to his website).
Kellstrom said a growing group of individuals is interested in a write-in or unaffiliated candidate and Wednesday's meeting was intended to get them all on the same page. The result was a handful of potential candidates and a goal to win the May 17 primary.
Kellstrom said defeating Linthicum and Reschke during the primary would be the most cost-effective solution, as opposed to a more drawn-out campaign leading to the Nov. 8 general election.
If this plan does not work, he said they would be prepared for “Plan B” to have a write-in or unaffiliated candidate step up to the plate for November.
He also said their efforts can be bolstered by voters willing to temporarily change their party to Republican, as only registered Republicans can vote against Linthicum and Reschke during the primary.
He acknowledged this may be asking a lot, but said voters could change their party affiliation back in time for the general election.
According to the Klamath County Clerk's Office, the last day a voter can change their party before the primary is April 26.
Slate of candidates
Among potential candidates one name was mentioned more than others: Rep. Mike McLane, of Oregon's 55th District. McLane is currently the House minority leader and is running for re-election against Democrat Brie Malarkey.
But residents at Wednesday's meeting said McLane has expressed a desire to run for Doug Whitsett's position in the past and would be a strong candidate to put forward.
“He's well-respected, he's done a hell of a job,” said Kellstrom. “I think he's sitting back there waiting for a signal.”
A McLane staffer told the H&N the representative was out of town for National Guard service and was not available for comment.
Other local faces offered their candidacy, including Scott Tyner, who said he would have filed for state representative had he known Gail Whitsett was dropping out of the race.
Tyner described himself as a conservative who moved back to Klamath Falls last year after spending time working in California and Arizona. He said he and his wife were taken aback at the economic condition of the area and felt a need to do something about it.
“I am open to any discussion from any way to build economic development in our area,” he said.
Also offering to run for senate, if McLane is not an option, was Marc Kane, executive director of the Klamath Basin Senior Citizens Center. Kane said he ran for office in 1994 and has also worked as a lobbyist. He said this experience has given him a realistic perceptive on what it would mean to hold office, especially representing a conservative county in a liberal legislature.
“Anybody that gets elected as a Republican is going to enter into the same political fatigue that the Whitsetts expressed,” said Kane.
He was referencing a joint statement from the Whitsetts, who said their withdrawal due to “political fatigue in the light of the two most recent legislative sessions.”
GOP surprised by Linthincum's move
Others, including Klamath County Republican Party Chairman Bob Moore, said this claim has merit given the current political environment.
“It's very strenuous, psychologically, and they were burned out,” said Moore. “Anyone who goes in there who isn't a Democrat is going to have the same effect.”
Moore said his group worked hard encouraging the Whitsetts to seek re-election last year and said he wishes they would have stayed. He said they have yet to formally endorse a candidate for the Republication nomination and had been unaware Linthicum and Reschke intended to file, though Linthicum serves as third vice chair of the executive committee.
Despite the growing pool of alternative candidates, which stood at eight by the end of the meeting, organizers said it is important to back a single individual during the election. Four people volunteered to serve on a committee to seek out and investigate candidates and promised to have recommendations ready by Friday.
The group of alternative candidate supporters plans to meet again in the future to discuss how they can inform the public of their efforts and make sure write-in procedures are followed, such as a need to write the correct legal name of the candidate for the vote to count.
Those who wish to become involved have been encouraged to contact Kellstrom and may do so at 541-891-4214.