BAKER CITY — Republican Party officials from Baker County and 10 other counties are slated to meet Jan. 4 in John Day to nominate candidates to replace Cliff Bentz, state senator for District 30 who is resigning Jan. 2 to run for Congress.
Elected commissioners from each of the 11 counties in District 30 are scheduled to convene Jan. 6 in Ontario to pick Bentz’s successor from among the GOP nominees.
Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, hopes to replace Rep. Greg Walden, who announced in late October he would not seek another term representing Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District. Walden’s two-year term expires at the end of 2020.
The process for replacing a state lawmaker involves two steps.
First, precinct committee members from the party of the departing legislator — Republicans, in Bentz’s case — meet to nominate candidates.
Suzan Ellis Jones, chair of the Baker County Republican Party, said the GOP plans to pick three candidates when it convenes on Jan. 4 at the Grant County Airport in John Day.
As of Monday, Jones said two people have applied — Lynn Findley of Vale, a state representative whose district includes Baker County, and Rod Runyon of Wasco County.
State law requires precinct committee members to nominate three, four or five candidates to fill a vacancy, Jones said.
If fewer than three people apply, then Oregon Gov. Kate Brown would appoint Bentz’s replacement.
But Jones said she expects there will be at least three candidates by the Monday the Oregon Republican Party set for people to submit a letter of interest. To be eligible, candidates must live within District 30 and have been a member of the Republican Party for at least 180 days prior to Jan. 2, 2020.
Although party committee members nominate candidates, the final choice is made by commissioners from the counties in District 30. That district, the largest geographically in the Oregon Senate, includes all of Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Malheur and Wheeler counties, as well as parts of Deschutes, Lake, Wasco, Clackamas and Marion counties.
Each county is allocated one vote for every 1,000 registered voters or major fraction of 1,000 (more than 500).
Baker County, which has slightly fewer than 12,000 registered voters, will have a total of 12 votes, meaning each of the three commissioners — Bill Harvey, Mark Bennett and Bruce Nichols — will have four votes each.
The vote breakdown by county: Baker, 12; Deschutes, 17; Grant, 5; Harney, 5; Jefferson, 15; Lake, 1; Malheur, 16; Wasco, 16; Wheeler, 1. Neither Clackamas nor Marion county will have any votes because the parts of those counties within District 30 are mainly in the Cascade Mountains, and neither has more than 500 registered voters.
If commissioners were to pick Findley to replace Bentz, the entire process would be triggered again since Findley’s move to the Senate would leave House District 60 vacant.
That District includes all of Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur counties, and part of Lake County.