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Political Newcomer Shocks Incumbent

DALLAS — Perhaps the most surprising result in a local race in the May 20 primary was the unseating of House District 23 Republican incumbent Jim Thompson of Dallas by his more conservative challenger, Mike Nearman of Independence.    The campaign wasn’t pretty, with Nearman attacking Thompson — who was seeking a fourth term — for being a moderate who worked too much with Democrats in the House. Thompson fired back that a willingness to work on bipartisan legislation is the only way to get any work done in Salem.    Nearman also took aim at Thompson’s oversight of Cover Oregon and belief that Oregon’s ban on gay marriage — which was struck down by a federal judge May 19 — is unconstitutional. The Oregon Family Council, which opposes gay marriage, and Oregon Right to Life threw their weight, and sizable donations, in Nearman’s corner.    On Election Night, it was Nearman’s points that prevailed — in a landslide. Mike Nearman    Nearman earned nearly 63 percent of the vote to Thompson’s 37 in Polk County. Nearman also won by large margins in neighboring Benton and Yamhill counties, where parts of those areas are within the District 23 boundary.    Even Nearman said he was shocked at the final tally.    “I was expecting it to be much closer,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you a number, but much closer. It was a pretty decisive win.”    Nearman said he believes the race hinged on three issues: Thompson’s support of Polk County’s public safety tax levy, voter displeasure with Thompson’s handling of Cover Oregon oversight, and his support of overturning a ban on gay marriage in the state.    “I think there were some trust issues,” Nearman said. “People were more wound up than I thought they would be.”    Thompson, who was also shocked by the margin, attributes part of that to numerous mailings in the last couple weeks of the campaign that painted him in a very negative — and he says inaccurate — light. He said he thought some people would be persuaded by those messages, but not in droves as apparently was the case. Jim Thompson    He said in one mailing he was nearly accused of being part of a “criminal conspiracy” in the Cover Oregon fiasco.    “I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised (people were persuaded),” he said. “It’s not a campaign anybody should be proud of.”    Thompson said he will continue his legislative work until the end of his term in January and, after that, he may consider running for another office.    “I’m not sure what office at this point,” he said, noting he’s not ready to retire. “I’m keeping my options open.”    Looking to November, Nearman said he is eager to get back on the campaign trail to give people a chance to get to know him.    “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to do that,” he said. Wanda Davis    Nearman — running in a heavily Republican district — will face Dallas Democrat Wanda Davis in November’s general election. Davis ran unopposed in the May 20 Democratic primary, receiving more than 98 percent of the vote.

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