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Former legislator faces two in District 26 race

Although observers were shocked to hear that former state representative Matt Wingard would seek election to the seat he vacated in 2012 — when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced — the decision makes perfect sense to him. Wingard

Wingard, who at the May 17 primary will face two other Republicans who seek to claim Oregon House District 26 in November, says he felt compelled to run when he heard that Republican John Boylston of King City would be running. Boylston is a friend of current Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, and Wingard sees Boylston’s bid as back-room dealing.

“That’s kind of like everything I’ve ever opposed in politics. People deserve to have a choice,” he says.

Wingard grew up in Aloha - which belongs to House District 26, along with parts of Wilsonville, Sherwood, King City, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard and Bull Mountain - and graduated from Aloha High School in 1990. From there he attended the University of Southern California, where he intended to attend the School of Cinematic Arts but graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism instead.

After several years as a television news reporter covering politics, Wingard got into field himself, working for U.S. Representative Doc Hastings of Washington. He returned to Oregon and in 2002, 2004 and 2006 headed former Wilsonville mayor Jerry Krummel’s campaigns to represent House District 26.

When Krummel, a Republican, announced that he would not seek reelection in 2008, Wingard decided to throw his hat in the ring. His primary concern - one that remains a focal point of his platform - has to do with education.

“The main reason I ran was that there was no advocate for school choice,” Wingard says. “I would go down there (to Salem), and what I would find is that either Republicans were bad on the issue, or they liked it - they like me, they liked the issue - but they weren’t willing to make that the thing that they were in the Legislature fighting for.”

Wingard says that he knew his decision to run would generate controversy. In 2002 he pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge for hitting his 7-year-old son in the head with a screwdriver. The conviction was later expunged.

He nevertheless won the race against two opponents with approximately 50.3 percent of votes.

“I had the worst personal smear campaign in Oregon history run against me. But we beat it,” he says.

Wingard supported bills that allowed open enrollment, removed enrollment caps on online schools and expand technical and career educational programs during his terms. He also sponsored a bill to waive tuition and fees for state foster children who attend public universities or community colleges in Oregon.

In 2012, a former aide accused Wingard of pressuring her into sex and of other allegations. Wingard said that the relationship had been consensual. The aide later recanted allegations that Wingard had drugged her, and an Oregon Department of Justice investigation found “insufficient evidence that a crime had been committed,” according to a letter it sent to Wingard.

“It just wasn’t true. I said at the time it wasn’t true, and she ultimately admitted that she didn’t tell the truth,” Wingard says. “Some of the people I trusted the most were involved in what was essentially a smear campaign.”

Wingard nevertheless stuck to an earlier commitment not to seek reelection, which he says was to avoid putting more of a burden on his family during what he foresaw as an ugly reelection campaign.

With his son grown and in the Army, Wingard decided to travel. He spent two years traveling across Europe and Asia, working for almost a year for a Chinese company that helps students there to apply to U.S. colleges.

When he returned, Wingard was disappointed by his successor’s votes in the capital - some of which will increase taxes, he says. But those votes alone didn’t inspire him to get back into politics.

“He wasn’t a bad legislator,” Wingard said. “But then I heard a few months before the (filing) deadline that he had moved a friend (Boylston) into the district to run, and that they were basically going to switch at the last second.”

That changed Wingard’s mind about running.

“If you’re not going to run, you should announce that way ahead of time,” he says.

Wingard filed for the office on the filing deadline, March 8. He says that he is “more conservative” than Boylston and Hillsboro’s Richard Vial, his two opponents in the May 17 primary. He has since been endorsed by Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, former Rep. Katie Eyre of Hillsboro, Hillsboro School Board member Erik Seligman, former Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve Gilmore, former Wilsonville Chamber President Doris Wehler and others.

Wingard says that he intends to continue to push for options in education and for reduced taxes, and cites his voting record as evidence that he will be as good as his word.

“I kept all my promises to the voters. I did everything I told them I would do when I was down there,” he says. “So I felt like I kept faith.”

Editor’s note: This is the first of three profiles for the Republican candidates for House District 26, which covers Wilsonville, Sherwood, Wilsonville, King City, and parts of Aloha, Hillsboro and Bull Mountain.