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District 5 race becomes more complicated

The Libertarian, Constitution and Pacific Green parties are getting in on the act in Oregon's Fifth Congressional District.

All three parties have named candidates to enter the fray against Democrat Kurt Schrader and Republican Mike Erickson, winners of their respective primaries on May 20.

The Libertarian Party nominated Steve Milligan, operations manager for Alternative Health and Herbal Remedies. He is in the middle of his second term on Monmouth City Council.

The Pacific Green Party nominated Alexander Polikoff, an electrical engineer from Corvallis.

The Constitution Party nominated Doug Patterson, a former minister and John Birch Society organizer from Oregon City who ran for the same seat in 2006.

The threesome promise to pull some votes away from the two major-party candidates and broaden the political debate.

The Fifth Congressional District stretches from Southwest Portland to Corvallis and includes most of Clackamas County and all of Marion and Polk counties, as well as Tillamook and Lincoln counties on the coast. It's considered the most competitive of Oregon's five districts, because Democrats and Republicans count a nearly equal number of registered voters.

Incumbent Darlene Hooley, D-West Linn, is leaving Congress once her term ends.

Democrat Kurt Schrader is a state senator and co-chairman of the Legislature's joint budget committee. He works as a veterinarian in Canby.

Republican Mike Erickson owns a fast-growing transportation services firm and lives in Lake Oswego.

After Hooley dropped her re-election bid in February, the race was ranked among the most competitive House contests in the nation.

However, Erickson emerged from the primary wounded by allegations that he impregnated a former girlfriend and then paid for her abortion, after campaigning as an anti-abortion candidate who sought the support of Oregon Right to Life.

The Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report, two nonpartisan groups that assess prospects of candidates, classified the race as a 'tossup' until the accusation against Erickson surfaced. Both political handicappers now consider Schrader to have an edge. Their assessments could reduce the national attention - and money - showered on the race.

Milligan is the highest elected official currently in the Oregon Libertarian Party.

Milligan said he'd be a voice for fiscal conservatism, but also has a strong anti-war stance.

'We're sending a lot of our citizens to all parts of the world and getting them blown up and killed,' he said.

He also is concerned about the rising strength of corporate media and mega-retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, which he said are making it hard for small businesses to thrive.

Patterson, who handles contractor sales for Lowe's home improvement store in Clackamas, said there isn't much difference between the Democrat and Republican in the race.

'They're both advocating socialism, and it's just a matter of degree,' he said. 'When you get to Washington and the power base back there, their party bosses are not going to allow them to vote their consciences.'

Polikoff calls for an end to funding the war in Iraq, and advocates a Canadian-style single-payer plan to provide universal health insurance. He favors a repeal of trade agreements that resulted in loss of American jobs, and repeal of the Patriot Act.

In 2006, Patterson drew 1.5 percent of the vote, the same amount registered for Paul Aranas of the Pacific Green Party.

The Libertarians did not contest the seat in 2006.