Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman is facing a primary challenge for the second consecutive election.
Nearman, a software engineer from Independence, is seeking a third term in House District 23, which includes parts of Benton, Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties. Nearman defeated three-term incumbent Jim Thompson in the 2014 primary, then easily won the general election.
Former Dallas Councilor Beth Jones took on Nearman in the 2016 GOP primary, but Nearman won comfortably and defeated Thompson, running under the Independent banner, in the general race that November.
Kris Morse Bledsoe, a Dayton resident, is challenging Nearman in Tuesday’s primary. She is owner of Willamette Botanicals, which produces marijuana-based honey products, salves and tinctures.
Bledsoe, who also has a background in agriculture, as a hospital chaplain and in the financial industry, describes herself as a “fiscally conservative, socially moderate candidate.” She has pledged not to accept special interest donations.
“Voters should bring me to the Legislature because I have the financial experience to sort through the budget crisis in our state,” Bledsoe said in answering a questionnaire from the Gazette-Times. “I know how to read budgets. I can ask the questions that need to be asked. I also work well with others. I know how to listen. I know when and how to compromise. I want to make our district proud.”
Key issues that Bledsoe said she hopes to tackle include education, foster care and the opioid crisis. Bledsoe also criticized Nearman for his work with an “anti-immigration hate group” and supports a third bridge over the Willamette River in Salem.
Nearman did not respond to Gazette-Times requests for an interview. In the press release announcing his run for re-election, Nearman said “it has truly been an honor representing my community and their values and priorities in the Oregon Legislature. During the time I have been a state representative I have worked hard to find solutions to some of the toughest problems our district and state face.
“While we have many challenges ahead of us, I believe I have the experience and positive relationships to take on some big problems and continue to effectively lead for my district.”
One of those challenges for 2018, Nearman said, is addressing the unfunded Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Nearman has introduced a bill that would create a new retirement plan for public workers.
The winner of the Nearman-Bledsoe race will face Independence resident Daniel Jaffer, board president of the Luckiamute Domestic Water Cooperative, in the November general election. Jaffer, an Oregon State University graduate and former Navy pilot, is the lone Democrat to enter the race.
The district does not include the main Benton County population centers of Corvallis, North Albany and Philomath. Key cities in the district are Adair Village, Alsea, Amity, Dallas, Dayton, Jefferson, Monroe, Rickreall, Willamina and parts of McMinnville.