Oregon has a proud history of independent politics.
The first independent to be elected to statewide office, Julius Meier, was elected Governor in 1930 with 54% of the vote in a 3-way race.
During his one term in office, Meier established the Oregon State Police, the State Unemployment Commission, and the State Board of Agriculture. He is credited with putting Oregon on solid financial footing in the wake of the Great Depression and with reforms that led to the creation of Oregon's non-partisan judicial system.
U.S. Senator Wayne Morse became the first and only U.S. Senator from Oregon to serve as an independent. Senator Morse declared his independence in 1953, after leaving the Republican Party in protest of the Presidential nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Morse, who eventually switched to the Democratic Party, was known as "The Tiger of the Senate" for his integrity, fiercely independent views, and for his willingness to stand his ground on controversial issues. He was one of only two senators who voted against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964, the law that authorized President Lyndon Johnson to pursue war in Vietnam. Biographers report that Johnson intensely hated Morse.
At one time, Morse held the record for the longest filibuster in Senate history, logging more than 22 hours in opposition to a tidelands oil bill.
State Senator Ben Westlund was the most recent candidate to (almost) run for elected office as an independent. He withdrew from the race without qualifying for the ballot, despite collecting more than 48,000 signatures and raising more than $600,000.
In 2005, the Oregon State Legislature enacted House Bill 2614, which was designed to keep independent candidates off of the Oregon ballot. The future founders of the IPO testified against this bill. This law was later widely criticized by editorial boards across the state for disenfranchising voters and impeding the ability of independent candidates to run for public office in Oregon.
Even more important, the same Legislature passed a law to eliminate the word "Independent" on all ballots. Before 2006, any candidate who qualified for the ballot by collecting sufficient signatures of registered voters was identified on the ballot an "Independent." But the Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature thought that word sounded too good. After all, someone who is "independent" is strong, resourceful, and smart. So they changed the word to "non-affiliated," which instead brings to mind someone who is a loner, misfit loser. But the unintended consequence of this law was to release the term "Independent" to be used as the name of a political party in Oregon.
In response to these new laws, citizen activists collected 26,000 signatures during 2006 to form the Independent Party of Oregon. The party was officially recognized by the Oregon Secretary of State in January 2007.
The Independent Party is now the 3rd largest political party in the state, with over 68,000 members.