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Mannix jumps into race for Hooleys congressional seat

Republican faces Lake Oswego's Mike Erickson in May primary election

Kevin Mannix announced last week that he is joining the race for Oregon's 5th Congressional District seat, giving Oregon Republicans the heavyweight contender many have lobbied for in the May 20 primary election.

Another Democrat also joined the race. Steve Marks, former chief of staff to Gov. John Kitzhaber, announced Wednesday that he will run against state Sen. Kurt Schrader in the primary. Richard W. Nathe of Salem, a retired department of transportation worker, is also running on the Democratic ticket.

Marks' campaign is being run by Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004.

Speculation about a Mannix run has been rampant almost since the moment U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley announced that she would step down from the congressional seat in early February. At that time, only Lake Oswego Republican Mike Erickson, who lost to Hooley in 2006, had filed for the seat. Since then, Salem dance instructor R.J. Wilson has joined the race.

Mannix, a former Democrat who switched parties in 1997, has won five times in races for the Oregon Legislature, though he's lost four statewide races: twice for attorney general and twice for governor.

However, he's well known for his work with conservative ballot initiatives, particularly those that address public safety issues. Mannix sponsored Ballot Measure 11, which established mandatory minimum sentences.

Mannix is viewed as a strong candidate who might fare well in the moderate 5th District, which includes most of Clackamas County, Salem and extends to the Oregon Coast. While the Salem Republican won't enjoy the same name recognition in Clackamas County as he does in the Salem area, has fared well in Polk and Marion counties in past elections. In his four state wide races, he won in those two counties three out of four times despite losing state wide.

He was elected to the state legislature four times as a Democrat and once as a Republican, all in a seat that represented Salem, the biggest population center in the district. He was chair of the state Republican Party from 2003 to 2005. Mannix is an attorney who received his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Virginia.

Marks is working as a lobbyist and policy consultant. This is his first run for office.

The deadline for candidates to file was Tuesday, March 11, after the paper went to press.