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Meet the Republican candidates for District 26

John BoylstonYou’ve read the headlines and seen the signs.

There’s a three-way race on for the Republican nomination in House District 26, which covers Wilsonville, Sherwood, King City, and parts of Aloha, Hillsboro and Bull Mountain. The seat is being vacated by Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville.

Davis’ preferred successor is a friend of his, John Boylston, who recently moved to King City from Portland. The two worked together to help found the nonprofit Emerging Leaders of Oregon.

Boylston said he knew earlier this year that Davis was weighing whether or not to run for a third term. Davis announced March 3 — the last day of the 2016 Legislature — that he’d decided not to seek reelection.

Matt Wingard, who represented the district before Davis, said he sees Boylston’s bid as backroom dealing. He said he felt compelled to run when he heard of Boylston’s candidacy.

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

But Boylston said he didn’t know Davis had chosen to vacate his seat.

“I didn’t know about John until he made the announcement on the House floor,” Boylston said.

Boylston said that he had already begun to prepare to run if Davis decided not to, although he told the Wilsonville Spokesman, The Times’ sister paper, that he did not know what Davis had decided until he announced his retirement on the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives. He announced his candidacy hours later.

Davis’ endorsement of Boylston came along with Boylston’s announcement.

“John is a friend and someone we can trust to put the public interest first — he’s the right fit for House District 26 and will represent all residents,” Davis said in the media release.

“He brings energy, experience and a thoughtful approach. He cares deeply about Oregon, our education system and creating jobs. He will look at old issues in new ways.”

Boylston told the Regal Courier, The Times’ sister paper in King City, that he was happy to get Davis’ endorsement.

“Politically, we have very similar views, and he is so well respected in Salem,” Boylston said.

Matt WingardWingard, who did not seek reelection in 2012, said he has been disappointed at times by Davis’ voting record, but that was not what motivated him to run.

“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, he said.

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

Wingard has been no stranger to controversy in his political career. 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.

Despite criticism over the screwdriver incident, Wingard won election in 2008 against two opponents with approximately 50.3 percent of the vote after being appointed to fill a vacancy.

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

Wingard was reelected easily in 2010. But in 2012, a former aide accused Wingard of pressuring her into sex and of other allegations. Wingard, who is not married, 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 said. “Some of the people I trusted the most were involved in what was essentially a smear campaign.”

However, Wingard stepped down as deputy leader of the House Republicans and dropped his reelection bid that year. Davis was tapped as his replacement on the ballot and won the election in November.

The dynamics of the Republican primary this month would be interesting enough if it were just Boylston, the handpicked heir to the outgoing state representative looking to jump into elective politics, and Wingard, the tarnished former representative seeking a triumphant return to office. But a third candidate, A. Richard “Rich” Vial, has complicated the race even further.

Rich VialHaving recently transitioned away from administrative responsibilities at the law firm he founded, Vial Fotheringham LLP, he told the Hillsboro Tribune, The Times’ sister paper, that he is ready to put his experience, knowledge and willingness to get things done to work in the state legislature.

“Thirty years working at the local level has prepared me to work in Salem,” Vial said.

Vial, who lives in Scholls, currently chairs the Washington County Planning Commission and sits on the Clean Water Services Advisory Commission. He is also a farmer, small business owner and real estate investor, as well as the father of 13 children.

With his connections and experience as a local leader, Vial said, he is the best candidate to represent District 26.

“Boylston will make a good legislator one day,” Vial said.

He was less complimentary of Wingard, questioning whether he would be effective in Salem given the controversy that preceded his decision not to seek reelection in 2012.

Wingard said that he is “more conservative” than Boylston and Vial. He pointed to his voting record as a former member of the House and said he intends to continue to push for “school choice,” promoting alternatives to public neighborhood schools, as well as for reduced taxes.

“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.”

Vial also identifies himself as a proponent of school choice and of allowing more charter schools. He sat on the school board of the Groner School District before it was consolidated into the Hillsboro School District in 1996. He also opposed Measures 66 and 67, which raised taxes on corporations and households with incomes above $250,000, in 2010.

But Vial said he favors “building relationships and looking for common ground” with others who have different views.

“Take time to understand the person who disagrees with your position,” he said. “If you can’t work across the aisle, you can’t get anything done.”

Boylston, who works at the Tigard law firm Myatt & Bell P.C., said he feels his career has prepared him well to make the changes he wants to see at the state level.

“I’ve always had to look at problems from all the different angles, and see things that are working in different situations that can be integrated into what I’m working on at the time,” he says.

While Boylston has Davis’ support, Vial and Wingard have earned several prominent endorsements of their own.

Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, former state Sens. Charles and Bruce Starr of Hillsboro, and Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry are among Vial’s backers.

Wingard has received the support of two former Republican House colleagues, state Rep. Julie Parrish of West Linn and former state Rep. Katie Eyre of Hillsboro.

The primary election is on May 17. The winner on the Republican side is expected to face Ray Lister, a Wilsonville Democrat who is a union organizer with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48.

A second Democratic candidate, Wilsonville’s Patrick Whewell, announced in March he will not actively campaign for the nomination, although his name does appear on the Democratic primary ballot.

Jake Bartman, Kathy Fuller, Mark Miller and Barbara Sherman contributed to this report.