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Kerry visit spotlights Oregon's state primary

10:15 AM PDT on Tuesday, May 18, 2004

By kgw.com and AP Staff

An Oregon visit by presumed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and spirited Republican races for nominations to two Democrat-held congressional seats put some zip into Tuesday's mostly low-key Oregon primary election.

John Kerry steps off a plane during his arrival in Portland. (KGW Photo)

Kerry's visit was his first campaign trip to Oregon, one of about dozen presidential toss-up states in recent polls. He appeared with former rival Howard Dean at a Monday night rally in downtown Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square. He also had a planned appearance for Tuesday at a local job training center.

A KGW poll released last week showed President Bush with a 44 percent to 39 percent lead over Kerry. But the scientific survey of likely voters conducted by Riley Research Associates of Portland has a margin of error of four percentage points, potentially making the race extremely close in battleground Oregon.

A Portland Tribune newspaper poll also out last week showed Kerry's support at 47 percent compared to 45 percent for Bush. That poll also had a four-percentage point margin of error.

Democrat Al Gore won Oregon in a 6,700-vote squeaker in 2000.

With no measures on the statewide ballot and little in the way of highly charged statewide races in the mail-in election, voter participation was running relatively low.

Ballots had been received from just 28 percent of registered voters through the weekend, the secretary of state's office said Monday. That was about the same pace of voting as in the 2002 primary, when a total of 46 percent of voters cast ballots.

A wild card in Tuesday's primary is Ohio U.S. Rep.Dennis Kucinich.

While acknowledging that Kerry's nomination "has basically been locked up," Kucinich spent four weeks before the election in Oregon to spread his anti-war message.

Kucinich was in single digits in the Tribune poll, with Kerry downing him by 68 percent to 8 percent. Kucinich said he had set no goal for his share of the vote.

"I've been careful not to make predictions," Kucinich told The Associated Press in an interview. "I offered my candidacy as a way for Oregonians to express their concerns.

"We urgently need to take a new direction in Iraq and bring our troops home," he said.

His other themes include repealing the Patriot Act and installing universal, single-payer health coverage.

Kucinich said he chose Oregon for his extended stump campaign "because of its progressive tradition and its pioneering spirit. The reception's been good."

Meanwhile, Republicans squared off in lively contests for the nominations to two U.S. House seats.

Iranian immigrant and Portland-area businesswoman Goli Ameri and Portland securities broker Tim Phillips have run high-visibility campaigns for the GOP nod to take on three-term Democratic U.S. Rep. David Wu in the 1st District.

Software company executive Jason Meshell is the third GOP candidate in the district that stretches from Portland's west side to the coast.

In the 5th District, state Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem and Lake Oswego lawyer Jim Zupancic are vying for the Republican nomination to the seat held by four-term U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley.

Hooley faces little-known media consultant Andrew Kaza of Manzanita on the Democratic ballot.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is unopposed in the primary, while six relatively little-known contenders are on the GOP ballot for that post.

In the only primary contest for a partisan statewide state office, Republican secretary of state contenders Betsy Close and Fred Granum both spent a low-key Monday as the voting deadline approached.

Close, a state representative from Albany, hasn't raised much money but has been getting help with campaign mailings from groups such as Oregon Right to Life and the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.

Granum, a Portland businessman, was phoning supporters who helped him raise $100,000 for his campaign.

"When I started this, I was absolutely unknown" around the state, said Granum. He predicted he will have strong name recognition if he wins the primary.

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury faced token Democratic opposition from perennial candidate Paul Damian Wells.

Three state appellate judges face opponents for their nonpartisan judicial posts.

The races include a challenge to openly gay Oregon Supreme Court Justice Rives Kistler by Lake Oswego lawyer James Leuenberger, who has represented anti-gay rights activist Lon Mabon in the past.

Oregon Christian Coalition mailings to 3,000 residents raised the issue of Kistler's sexual orientation.

"We give the people of Oregon information on who they want as a judge, a man who believes family is as important as it has been for thousands of years or a man doing what in the past has been against law and is against moral law," said Lou Beres of Portland, the group's chairman, who challenges Kistler's fitness to serve on moral grounds.

Legal disputes over the decision by two Oregon counties to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples are quickly heading to Kistler and the high court's six other judges.

Lisa Grove, a pollster working for Kistler's campaign, said sexual orientation shouldn't be an issue in the race.

"Judge Kistler has a brilliant legal mind and that should be the only test here," Grove said. "It would be wrong for any other criteria or litmus test to be applied to this campaign."

Meanwhile in other judicial races, Oregon Supreme Court Justice William Riggs faces Umatilla County Circuit Judge Rudy Murgo, and Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Robert Wollheim is opposed by Bend lawyer Phil Brockett.


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