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Imagine a capitol without parties

A group studying ways to improve the Oregon Legislature is asking a worthwhile question: Why not take the party out of Salem altogether? The Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature is recommending that the Legislature consider turning itself into a nonpartisan body. If that suggestion were adopted, candidates would not run under a party label, but would be elected on their own merits, as school board or city council candidates are elected now.

This notion is so radical that it won't fly in the Legislature, where members arrived via the two-party system. But lawmakers' unwillingness to tackle a topic has never stopped Oregonians from pursuing it. The initiative process provides two opportunities to reduce excessive partisanship.

The first should come this fall when former Secretaries of State Phil Keisling and Norma Paulus plan to bring their open-primary initiative to the ballot. If that's successful, they should discuss the possibility of another initiative to transform the Legislature into a body that thinks solely about what's good for Oregon Ñ and not what's good for Republicans or Democrats.