by Oregon Community Newspapers (Hillsboro Tribune)
Feb 18. 2015

Oregon’s newest major political organization is the Independent Party, which, subject to another check this summer, can choose its candidates in the same statewide primary election as Democrats and Republicans.

Secretary of State Kate Brown made the declaration last week after the party reported 108,742 voters registered with the party. The number was just above the threshold of 108,739, which is 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor Nov. 4.

The party was founded in 2007. Its co-leaders are Dan Meek and Linda Williams, both of Portland.

“The Independent Party of Oregon was created to provide ballot access to candidates who do not want to run as Democrats or Republicans, and to make our leaders more responsive to the concerns of our members,” its website said.

Brown says the party’s status is subject to recertification by Aug. 17, the legal deadline for a determination for the 2016 primary, which will be May 17.

Major-party status brings with it the ability to run a publicly funded primary, as Democrats and Republicans have done since Oregon voters instituted primary elections in 1904.

But unlike its previous status, the Independent Party will have to present candidates who are registered with the party. In previous elections, the party has been able to cross-nominate candidates who already won Democratic and Republican nominations, as well as nominate candidates through its own process.

Independent Party nominee Chuck Lee of Keizer, who was not cross-nominated, failed in his bid Nov. 4 to win the open House District 25 seat won by Republican Bill Post of Keizer.

The Independent Party conducted the first Internet-only primary in 2010.

Although cross-nominated candidates have won, the Independent Party has yet to win a state office.

A sizable share of Oregon’s registered voters apparently is up for grabs. Almost a quarter of registered voters are not affiliated with any party, a status that is not the same as registration in the Independent Party.

Oregon politics has not had a third force in about two decades, since Ross Perot’s independent candidacy for president won 24 percent of the Oregon votes cast in 1992.