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Democrats have two candidates, Republicans need one for District 52

One of the people most surprised by Rep. Patti Smith's decision not to run for re-election in House District 52 was Tom Devanney, Clackamas County Republican Central Committee president.

'Oh my gosh,' Devanney said upon learning of the Corbett Republican's announcement. 'I'm surprised, because it was my understanding that she was going to run.'

Now Republicans are scrambling to come up with a candidate so they can hold onto the District 52 seat. No names come to mind, Devanney said, but they hope to have some soon.

'That's why I announced when I did,' Smith said. 'I wanted (Republicans) to have time. We need people who have business and diversified backgrounds doing this job.'

Smith said that she's tried to rally several people from Hood River to run in her place, to no avail. Whoever is picked, she says she probably will help campaign for them 'If I like them.'

Candidates have until March 11 to file, and the Oregon Election Division says most people turn in paperwork at the last minute.

The Democrats have not one candidate but two seeking to succeed Smith.

Suzanne VanOrman won't have an electoral rematch with Smith after all.

VanOrman, who lost to Smith in 2006 by 13 percent of the vote, admits that Smith's departure helps her campaign, but with a primary battle looming and the potential of a new Republican candidate, she says she can't count on a victory just yet.

'It means that I just continue on, work harder and convince people that I really am a credible candidate and that I will work hard to win in November,' VanOrman said.

A former Oregon City commissioner and Hood River County Head Start executive, VanOrman said most of her platform from 2006 remains the same - providing affordable healthcare, education funding and government accountability.

VanOrman's competition in the May primary is Sandy-based attorney Steve Richkind, who sees his campaign as the beginning of a local, statewide and even national movement.

'Government needs a complete overhaul,' said Richkind, a 1972 Sandy High School graduate who has worked as an attorney for 21 years. 'I see that corporations are running our country, laughing all the way to the bank while we the people are suffering.'

Instead of doing 'politics as usual,' Richkind advocates a campaign that inspires ordinary citizens to 'take back' their government and understand the power of involvement.

'Right now our government and our leaders are not doing anything to inspire people,' Richkind said, noting that he puts his opponent in that category. 'Really, this is about me putting out a message that says we do make a difference; let's join together and make government what we want.'

Richkind has set a goal to have 1,000 active volunteers for his campaign by the May primary.

'I see that my involvement in running for Oregon House is about calling people to join me in the movement to transform government,' Richkind said. 'The Oregon House is just the beginning. If we want to take back our government, we have to start small. I'm a lit candle, and I want to light other candles.'

Neither the House District 52 Democrats nor Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, will endorse a candidate before the primaries.

'We're encouraging people to definitely get involved in any of these races,' said local Democratic president Susan Gates.

Gates said the departure of Smith in the 2008 election is both positive and negative for local Democrats. The benefit of having Smith run again, she said, was the ability to juxtapose Democratic values with Smith's voting record.

'That would have been good exposure,' Gates said.

On the other hand, the mystery of who will replace Smith is somewhat unsettling.

'We're not sure if we're going to have a credible candidate on the other side,' she said. 'It'll be interesting.'

Smith admits that her seat is vulnerable, but said that's nothing new.

'It's always vulnerable,' she said. 'Every seat is vulnerable except in downtown Portland. There are always swing districts; it really depends on who shows up to vote.'

More information

Suzanne VanOrman: www.votevanorman.org

Steve Richkind: www.richkind52.com

Oregon Trail Democrats: www.oregontraildemocrats.org

Clackamas County Republicans: www.clackamasgop.org