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'Lifetime Rebublican' West in running for House seat

Republican was part of suit to reverse gay marriage ban


Ben West, a plaintiff in one of the federal lawsuits that overturned Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriages, has announced for the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat.

The Democratic incumbent is Kurt Schrader, who is seeking a fifth two-year term.

The district includes a sliver of Portland and most of Clackamas County — including West Linn — and extends into the Mid-Willamette Valley and the central coast.

In his first bid for public office, West seeks to build on the public attention he drew as a result of the 2013 lawsuit and subsequent actions.

“We have a history of being inclusive. We have a history of equality,” West said in a recent interview with The Hill newspaper. “This is the greatness of America, and I believe the Republican Party as a whole offers the most to achieve that.”

West has described himself as a lifelong Republican.

He and Paul Rummell were the lead plaintiffs in one of the two lawsuits filed in 2013 against the same-sex marriage ban that Oregon voters approved back in 2004.

A federal judge overturned the ban in 2014, on grounds that it violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law, and the U.S. Supreme Court nullified state bans in 2015.

West appeared in a television ad on behalf of Republican Monica Wehby’s candidacy for U.S. senator in 2014, although other plaintiffs endorsed Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley, who defeated the Portland physician.

West also appeared on a Dec. 4 panel of the City Club of Portland to discuss the future of the Republican Party in Oregon.

West, 37, is a nursing student and a former mortgage banker. He attended Portland Bible College and is a fourth-generation Oregonian. He lives in Wilsonville, and he and Rummell have adopted a son.

The 5th District is the most closely divided by party affiliation of Oregon’s five U.S. House seats. As of January registration figures, Democrats edged Republicans, 36 percent to 33.3 percent.

Schrader was a state senator from Canby when he was elected in 2008 to the seat being vacated by Democrat Darlene Hooley of West Linn after six terms.

His closest re-election since then was in 2010, when he turned back a well-funded challenge from then-state Rep. Scott Bruun by 5 percentage points.

In his most recent election in 2014, Schrader defeated Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith, the Republican nominee, by 54 percent to 39 percent; three other candidates split the rest of the votes.

Two other candidates already have filed in the Republican primary for the seat May 17.

They are Seth Allan of Canby, a psychiatric technician, and Colm Willis of Stayton, a lawyer and former political director for Oregon Right to Life.

In his announcement, West said:

“Oregonians and Americans as a whole have been struggling. We’ve seen jobs disappear, our security threatened and our individual liberties have come under attack.

“I am running for Congress because I want to give a voice to the hard-working men and women of the 5th District who have been ignored for far too long. I want to fight for Oregon’s future. By working together, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of generations to come.”