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Who Will Tend Lane Shetterly's House Seat?

Three Republicans scramble for instant incumbency

POLK COUNTY -- Lane Shetterly started a new job Feb. 23 -- leaving three people scrambling for his old one.

The Dallas resident resigned as state representative of House District 23 last week to become director of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The three candidates for his old House seat each want a shortcut to the Legislature. The decisions rests with Republican Party leaders and county commissioners in Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties.

Republican leaders must come up with a list of nominees. They submit the nominees to the secretary of state. The list then goes to the 15 county commissioners for a final selection.

Cheryl Lentsch, Jim Thompson and Jim Welsh already planned to face each other in the Republican primary. Now one of them stands a chance to become the instant incumbent -- at least until November.

They all want the appointment. However, Jim Thompson of Dallas sees how it could be a double-edged sword. Voters could see the appointment as taking unfair advantage of the electoral process, he said.

Plus, Republican leaders risk the criticism of playing favorites.

Still, Thompson said all three candidates obviously want to represent the district. Otherwise, they would not have filed in the first place.

"You also run the risk of not looking like you're willing to do battle in a special session," Thompson said. "It's a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation."

Lentsch agrees. If one of the candidates gets the interim job, it would mean a tremendous political advantage in the November election. "I would be foolish not to go after it," the Monmouth resident said.

Welsh wants the position but said he is not aggressively lobbying Republican leaders. "I'm going to see how it all works out," the Dallas resident said.

Shetterly filed his resignation with the Legislature. As of his first day on the job, however, the paperwork had not found its way to the secretary of state's office.

Once it arrives, Republican Party Executive Director Amy Casterline said the secretary of state notifies the party. Precinct committee chairs then have 10 days to convene and start discussing candidates.

They have 30 days to submit a list of names to the secretary of state. Then the names go to the county commissioners.

"It ought be an interesting process, with 15 commissioners trying to make a decision," said Lentsch.

Republicans have no doubt but that Lentsch, Thompson and Welsh all want the job, Casterline said. "They've all contacted us. They all want to be the incumbent."

That decision rests with the commissioners and precinct leaders, Casterline said. "The party itself is neutral."

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