Republican precinct committee persons voted Saturday to nominate Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif to fill the House District 2 seat recently vacated by Dallas Heard.
Heard, R-Winston, is now the state senator for District 1, filling the seat formerly held by Jeff Kruse.
Kruse resigned in March, initiating a domino effect that’s led to Republicans holding two conventions this spring. In March in Coquille, a convention of precinct committee persons from Senate District 1 chose Heard to be the Republican nominee for Kruse’s seat on the November ballot. A group of commissioners from five counties subsequently appointed him to fill the seat in the interim.
That left Heard’s former House seat open, so Republican committee persons from House District 2 met in Roseburg on Saturday to nominate his replacement.
They first selected a slate of four candidates for the interim position. Those names will be forwarded to county commissioners from the three counties in House District 2. The commissioners will meet Monday in Roseburg to select an interim representative from the list.
Leif received the highest number of votes, followed by Winston realtor Valynn Currie, Roseburg insurance adjuster Elias LaLande and Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich, in that order. A fifth candidate, Kathey Linn of Canyonville, did not obtain enough votes to have her name forwarded to the commissioners.
In a second vote, Leif was selected the Republican nominee for the November ballot.
Leif’s name is already on the Republican May primary ballot, but Saturday’s vote was meant as a backup to ensure Republicans have a candidate in November.
That’s because Heard’s name is also on the ballot, because the deadline to remove it passed before he got his new job.
Now, if Republican voters are confused by all the recent changes and vote for Heard for representative — a job he no longer wants now that he’s a senator — Leif will be able to step in as a replacement nominee. Leif will face Megan Salter in November, because she’s the lone Democrat on the primary ticket.
Heard has endorsed Leif’s candidacy.
Prior to the slate of four being chosen Saturday, candidates gave speeches and answered questions. Leif was not there in person because he was attending a family wedding in California, but participated by phone.
There were few differences between them on the issues. They all supported sending Oregon National Guard troops to secure the border with Mexico, and they opposed sanctuary cities and states, saying immigrants need to follow the rules.
“We are probably the least protected people in the world,” Currie said. “We need to step that up, and the national guard is a reasonable thing. Our president has asked for it, and for our governor to deny it is just wrong.”
Linn said America needs to put up a wall at the border.
LaLande said slaves from human trafficking and drugs are moving up and down Interstate 5 because the border isn’t secure. He also said liberals claim to create sanctuaries because they are opening their hearts to the downtrodden, but really they’re looking to increase the number of voters on their side.
The candidates were asked what they’d do about runaway public employee retirement system spending. Rich, who receives PERS himself as a retired teacher and school administrator, said there should be a cap on the benefits. Currie agreed. LaLande said legislators should not be eligible for PERS. Leif said public employees should move to 401K plans like private sector workers have.
One question the candidates answered was what conservative values they held. All are pro-life and pro-Second Amendment.
Rich said for him conservative values come down to morals.
“I believe that we are here to help one another, and that’s a responsibility that we look at. When you are trying to decide how to help somebody, are you willing to step forward and help them the best you can to be the best they can be? That’s what I like to stay focused on,” Rich said.
LaLande, a millennial, said he would bring a unique voice to Salem. He said he understood the frustration of many young people who have trouble finding work, buying a home or starting a business, and what worries him is increasingly it’s not just young people who face those problems. He said a Republican in the House will have limited ability to influence the ruling Democratic party, but he said what they can offer is hope.
“Oregon’s poised for a message of hope, because liberalism is not a message of hope. Liberalism is a message of dividing. They divide you rich-poor, black-white, male-female ... Conservatism is the opposite,” he said.
Leif said the Republicans need to educate liberals on what’s happening in rural America, and his experience as a county commissioner would help him do that.
“Salem doesn’t understand or represent us. We live in Southern Oregon, a land rich in resources that’s rotting away in our mountains. That would provide all of the funding we need instead of the liberal solutions to just tax us more. It’s time to say enough. We must stand together, not just for Southern Oregon, but for America, for our children and our grandchildren, because they won’t be able to fix this if we don’t,” Leif said.