Though Republicans are outnumbered in Oregon’s first congressional district by about 12 percent, three candidates were vying for the chance to run against the Democratic nominee in this year’s municipal election. The district, consisting of the northwest corner of the state, had candidate George Griffith, an engineer who has worked for Intel, Apple and NASA; Preston Miller, an Army veteran and student at Portland State University; and John Verbeek, a financial advisor who previously ran for public office in various positions and districts.
Throughout the campaigns of the Republican candidates, there were some obvious commonalities that lie well within the pre-established values of the party. Each candidate, for example, encouraged increasing vocational education and gun rights, while decreasing elements such as taxation and term length that boost government influence.
The candidates also all endorsed the current administration with the caveat that they renounced the role of partisanship in this country. Despite their alignment with the Republican Party, they called for political allegiance to the people over any party. These sentiments included an increase in certain social liberties. For example, Miller supported an increase in LGBT+ rights, the decriminalization of marijuana, and accessible abortion until week 20 of pregnancy. “While I am pro-life myself, I do not believe Roe versus Wade should be overturned,” he told Willamette Week. “Illegalizing abortion won’t stop abortions; it’ll just bring back back-alley abortions, and no one wants that.” Griffith, on the other hand, opposed capital punishment on the basis of his belief in Catholicism.
While these views can be seen as a genuine political opinion defying party norms, or a way to sway previously Democratic voters, there were many more direct diversions from the Democratic Party. An example of this is Miller’s criticism of incumbent representative Bonamici found on his campaign website. He disagreed with her alliance to Minority leader of the House Nancy Pelosi, lack of support for provisions that keep out illegal immigrants, and support for raising of healthcare premiums. He even went so far as to mention Democratic support of slavery during the Civil War. In an interview with Willamette Week, Griffith made the appeal that a Republican would better be able to negotiate for liberal policy in a conservative dominated House. “If we need to change, we need a Republican in office,” he argued.
The candidates’ policies, however, differed more in the specificities of the issues. While they were all concerned about infrastructure, Verbeek was concerned with legislation involving transportation, and Griffith was focused on science engineering education.
One standout interest, however, came from Griffith. He shifted his campaign to the national level when he endorsed international trade agreements that “put Oregon in a position of power.” This was with the hope of competing with countries like China.
Despite the multitude of interesting campaigns, the candidate pool had to be narrowed to only one in the May 15th primary elections. The results are in and John Verbeek has emerged victorious with 50.6 percent of Republican voters on his side. The most staunchly Republican, he spent most of his campaign thus far advocating for increased freedom of religion and strengthened transportation and medical infrastructure. While he has passed the first hurdle of the primaries, he has quite a challenge in the general election.