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« McCain Goes Green | Blog Home Page | Cole Spins MS Loss »

OR Primary Goes Insane

As two top Republicans battle it out to score their party's nomination to replace retiring Rep. Darlene Hooley, the race has blossomed into one of the ugliest of the cycle thanks to a last-minute attack that will go down as one for the ages. Kevin Mannix, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2002 and a failed candidate for the same office in 2006, has charged his opponent with paying for an abortion after getting a woman pregnant several years ago.

Mannix's charge came in a letter to 60,000 Republican voters in the district who have yet to mail in their ballots, and is based on a 2006 email the woman sent to several media outlets with the story. The 33 year old woman told her story to the Portland Tribune's Steve Law, and though she didn't want to be identified for fear of retribution, but a friend confirmed the story on the record.

The opponent accused, 2006 GOP nominee Mike Erickson, a businessman from the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them "false allegations" and a "desperate smear that Kevin Mannix resorts to," in a statement posted by the Oregonian's Steve Mayes.

Erickson, who has been endorsed by Oregon Right To Life, spoke with the group about the incident in 2006, the Tribune reported, though the group found his denials credible. "These unsubstantiated and untrue allegations are from an email from 2006 that no news media reported at the time. They are just as untrue today as they were then," Erickson said in the statement.

This is not the kind of feuding Republicans need in their efforts to take back what will likely be a competitive House seat in November. Erickson lost to Hooley by eleven points in 2006, and President Bush carried the district narrowly in both his races. If Republicans field a good candidate, they would have a chance at winning the open seat, which stretches from the Cascade foothills, south of Portland and including Salem and west to the Pacific Coast.

Erickson has raised more than $900,000 this cycle after spending $1.8 million last time out, amounts that have largely come from his own checkbook. Mannix has been less prolific in his fundraising, but he has name recognition that Erickson might not, given his long history in Oregon Republican politics. Steve Marks, a former chief of staff to Governor John Kitzhaber, and State Senator Kurt Schrader are running on the Democratic side, though both started late and have raised significantly less money than the two Republicans.

Both parties are going to spend money in one of the few swing districts available on the West Coast, but if the Republican primary devolves into these kinds of allegations and rumors, Democrats might have an easier time than they thought retaining the seat.