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Monday, July 13, 2020

Former Rep. Rich Vial seeks Secy of State Nomination, But…

So you are forced to quit your state job and now you want to run the agency? Hmmm.  
Enter Richard Vial, former HD26 Republican State Rep. After his defeat by Courtney Nearon in 2018, Vial wound up as the Deputy Secretary of State, a political plum under the short-term seat-warmer, Bev Clarno, also a former Republican legislator.  
Before too long it appeared that Vial, a land-use attorney, was getting paid for showing up in court to work on his private docket, not on Secy of State business. But wait! He’s a salaried 40-hours a week employee of the State of Oregon. Unable to adequately clear the conflicting air, he left the job under a considerable cloud in January of this year.


Now he’s doing an end run around the nominating process to get on the November ballot against the Democratic nominee, Shemia Fagan, and the Republican candidate, Kim Thatcher. To reach the ballot he is compelled to convene 1,000 assembled voters at one time in one place and get their signatures on a petition supporting his nomination.  
The first time this route was taken for a State office was in 1930. Julian Meier’s law partner, George Joseph, won the Republican nomination for Governor and then died of a heart attack. The Republicans nominated someone else and Meier found major flaws in both the major party candidates and took the convention/assembly route to his own nomination as an independent. He won easily, gaining more votes than his two opponents combined.
Fifty years later, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were the presidential nominees and, again, some Oregonians weren’t thrilled with the choices.  Unhappy Republicans got John Anderson nominated as an independent and a state-wide nominating assembly created yet a fourth candidate, Barry Commoner.
This was the first time such a nominating convention (at the presidential level) occurred here post-primary. Left-leaning Democrats found Carter too moderate so they turned to Commoner, a prominent biologist who was raising the ugly spectre of climate change and offered a whole new breadth of intelligence and savvy in the political arena.  
With no budget but lots of energy, Portland Democrats mustered the money to rent a big building in the Rose Garden Complex, found supportive lawyers who did the nominating research and then generated a crowd of close to 1,200 under one roof at one time with the minimum 1,000 valid signatures easily collected to put the PhD on the fall ballot. (He would finish fourth in the November race. Reagan beat Carter in Oregon by more than 100,000 votes.)
But back to Vial.
His nominating convention is hampered by the pandemic. Putting 1,000-plus registered voters in a closed area would include the uninvited guest, Mr. Covid. So Vial is going another route for his July 25 affair in rural Beaverton. He will use a farmer’s field so his attendees can come in their vehicles and park as if in a drive-in theater. Monitors would then go car-to-car for signatures after a rousing presentation by Vial and his henchmen and women.
This special approach must be approved in advance by the Secy of State’s staff so we assume Vial has met the requirements for his “assembly”. (One of the requirements is that everyone must stay in the “assembly” for at least one hour.) He is intentionally turning his back on his own Republican party, having re-registered as an Independent. Any party voter qualifies for his petitions.
If nothing else, Vial is probably going to finish third and probably take votes away from State Sen. Thatcher, the Republican. She’s already trailing State Sen. Fagan, currently representing parts of Clackamas and Multnomah Counties in the Legislature.

Will there be three candidates? We should know by the afternoon of July 25 if Vial, an experienced but lackluster legislator, will be included.