Corvallis-area state Rep. Dan Rayfield will have no major party opposition in his bid for re-election, Democratic incumbent Sara Gelser will face a Republican newcomer in the race for the District 8 Senate seat and Republican incumbent Mike Nearman will face a primary challenger with a Democrat waiting in the wings.
That’s the picture that emerged for legislative races affecting Benton County residents after Tuesday’s deadline for major party candidates to file for the May 15 primary election.
No one filed to run against Rayfield, a Democratic attorney who has held the District 16 seat since the 2014 election.
In the Legislature, Rayfield has served as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, vice chair of the House Rules Committee and House majority whip.
In Senate District 8, representing Corvallis and Albany, Gelser is running for a second four-year term. She has chaired the Senate Human Services Committee and currently serves as the chamber’s assistant majority leader. Gelser held the District 16 seat in the House from 2004 to 2014.
While she has no opposition in the Democratic primary, Gelser will face a Republican challenger in the November general election.
Erik Parks, an electrician and Navy veteran from Albany, is the sole entrant in the GOP primary. Parks has served as a Republican precinct committee person since 2016.
In House District 23, which includes rural swaths of Benton, Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties, two-time incumbent Mike Nearman is being challenged by Dayton farmer Kris Bledsoe in the GOP primary. Nearman won the seat in 2014, ousting three-term incumbent Jim Thompson in the primary. Nearman, an Independence software engineer, also defeated Thompson, then running as an Independent, in the 2016 general election.
Bledsoe has branded her campaign as a “moderate voice for radical times” and notes that she is the lone OLCC-licensed marijuana business owner running for state office in Oregon. Bledsoe owns Willamette Botanicals, which makes nonsmoking products aimed at easing pain and improving sleep.
Danny Jaffer, a former Navy pilot and current president of the Luckiamute Cooperative Water District, is the only Democrat to file papers for the seat. No Democrat participated in 2016. Jaffer says that the Legislature is not paying enough attention to rural issues, particularly agriculture and the wine industry.