Candidates are scarce for legislative seats

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Faced with long sessions and a measure of frustration, recruiters for both parties are having trouble rounding up candidates for the Oregon Legislature.

It’s an old problem, but recent struggles with seemingly endless sessions and a lack of compromise on school funding have made it worse.

And time has run out. Tuesday is filing deadline.

Some potential candidates wonder why they should bother when the Legislature seems unable to solve the problems that matter most.

"It’s difficult to give that much time for that little compensation – and to ask family to give that much time – just to go down there and pull their hair out," said Gresham City Council President Shane Bemis, who decided not to run for the Legislature in 2004.

This year 60 House seats and 15 Senate seats are at issue. As of last week, nearly half of those districts had only one candidate running, almost always the incumbent.

In another 30 races, one Democrat had filed to run against one Republican. Only 11 races had attracted two or more candidates from any one party.

"I think people are just much more aware of how much of a sacrifice it is," said Jennifer Waggoner, recruiting coordinator for House Republicans.

Low pay and demands on time are the most-often-cited complaints.

After a record five special sessions in 2002, the Legislature had its two longest sessions ever in 2003 and 2005. A legislator’s salary is $17,244 a year, with $99 a day for expenses during legislative sessions.

Bemis said pay isn’t his major problem. His Gresham City Council position is unpaid. His bigger concern: "The need for people to give ground to find commonsense solutions."

"The partisanship that has gone on both sides of the aisle is difficult to get past," said Bemis, the 33-year-old father of two children.