GOLD BEACH — Gold Beach city councilor Tamie Kaufman is mounting a write-in campaign to represent Oregon House District 1 after, she says, an apparent secret deal denied her a chance to be the Republican candidate.
State Rep. Wayne Krieger, one of the people Kaufman blames for her exclusion, said she's simply not as qualified as David Brock Smith, the only Republican who'll appear on the primary ballot.
Kaufman, owner of a property management company, said in a statement that she approached Rep. Wayne Krieger last year and told him she was interested in running for state representative when he was ready to retire.
She said Krieger's wife, Colleen Krieger, told her there were six other Republicans interested in the position.
But this month, according to Kaufman's statement, "In a surprise move, Rep. Krieger withdrew his candidacy. David Brock Smith filed for State Representative, and David Itzen filed for Smith's commissioner seat — all at the last minute of the filing deadline."
Kaufman compares this to a recent action by Sen. Doug Whitsett and Rep. Gail Whitsett, a married couple from Klamath Falls who serve in the legislature. Both of them filed for re-election, then withdrew their candidacies after the filing deadline. Some Republicans in their districts have accused the Whitsetts of acting in bad faith to ensure that the remaining candidates — Dennis Linthicum, who's running for state senator, and Werner Reschke, who's running for state representative — would be unopposed in the primary.
Krieger also announced his retirement after the filing deadline.
Kaufman, a member of the Curry County Republican Central Committee, said her group and the other county party committees in House District 1 weren't consulted about or apprised in advance of the moves by Krieger, Smith and Itzen. She said Thursday she's contacted Krieger and some of the other people she thinks were interested in the position, but none of them has responded.
She didn't accuse Krieger of acting in bad faith. "An honorable person can make a mistake," she said.
In response, the 75-year-old Krieger, who has served in the legislature since 2000, said Thursday that a bout of illness during the legislative session had prompted him to announce his retirement.
He said he'd told Kaufman in the fall that she would need more experience in government before she was qualified to be a state representative, since her only experience was as a city councilor and she'd never testified before the legislature on any issue. He said an effective representative for District 1 would need knowledge of agriculture, logging and fishing.
He contrasted Kaufman with Smith, a Curry County commissioner who's on the board of the Association of Oregon Counties. "He's up there right now meeting with a Chinese delegation about exports of blueberries," he said. "The guy is amazing."
"If you look at the two of them, she can't even come close," Krieger said. "Her time isn't here yet."
Kaufman has served for many years as a precinct person and chaired the county's party committee one year. Appointed to the Gold Beach City Council in 1995 at the age of 26, she is the youngest person to serve on the council. She was appointed again and elected in 2010 and 2014.
Kaufman calls herself a moderate Republican, saying she's fiscally conservative but thinks personal issues are none of the government's business.
She's chatted about her political plans with Tina Kotek, the Democratic Speaker of the House, who, she said, was surprised to learn Kaufman was a Republican. "We're not going to agree on the big things, like minimum wage and gun control, but the smaller things."
As an example of what a person committed to bipartisan work could do in the legislature, Kaufman cited the case of Senator Bill Hansell (R-Milton-Freewater), who in 2015 got both houses to pass a bill that let Milton-Freewater avoid an expensive annexation of a troubled trailer park, earning him praise from constituents of all political persuasions.
"Those kind of issues that come up in your district, you can solve if you've got a relationship that isn't adversarial," she said. "If I'm not in the news all the time saying, 'Those stupid Democrats,' then it becomes, 'OK, she's a friendly Republican, maybe we can trust her.'"
To get on the November ballot, Kaufman's strategy is to get both Republicans and those with an Independent Party ballot to write her in. "I want to talk to as many (independent voters) as I can," she said. "Social media has already started. I may have to end up calling all of them."
"I'm having to scramble really fast."
To get on the November ballot and challenge Smith, all Kaufman must do in the primary is get more Independent Party write-ins than anybody else.
People who want to vote for Kaufman must do so in different ways depending on their party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans must write in her name and fill in the box next to the write-in area. Independents must request an Independent Party ballot (the actual Independent Party, not just a ballot with no political affiliation) and write in her name there. April 26 is the last day to register and request a ballot by mail.