What has been a pretty humdrum legislative election season just got a whole lot more interesting. Karl "Rick" Miller,
who made a fortune in the assisted living field—he founded Avamere Health Services
, a large chain of facilities for seniors—filed a candidate committee yesterday that has the effect of making him a candidate in the District 19 (Lake Oswego and Tualatin) state Senate race yesterday as an independent.
Miller, who stands seven feet tall
and has been a big contributor to Republican candidates and causes, has the resources to self-fund a very serious campaign. For instance, he gave $75,000 to GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley
in 2010; $25,000 to GOP Secretary of State candidate Dr. Knute Buehler
in 2012 and $100,000 to the Oregon Transformation Project
, a conservative political action committee, in 2012, along with numerous other contributions through the years.
After stepping down from day-to-day operations at Avamere about a year ago, Miller gave $8 million
to his alma mater, Portland State University.
He remains the chairman of Avamere and is also a co-founder of Rogue Venture Partners, a local venture capital firm. He lives on a private, five-acre island
in Lake Oswego that was the subject of a splashy feature in The Oregonian last year.
Miller's candidacy could change the complexion of Senate races state-wide.
Currently, Democrats hold a 16-14 advantage
in the Senate and have been focused on trying to pick up another seat in Corvallis, where they are targeting the seat held by Sen. Betsy Close (R-Albany).
Miller has filed for the seat held by Sen. Richard Devlin
(D-Tualatin). Devlin is one of the Legislature's longest-serving members—he won a House seat in 1996—and as co-chairman of Joint Ways and Means Committee, he's Salem's leading budget expert. His seat was considered so safe that no Republican filed to challenge him this year.
But despite a strong record, and a 10,000 voter registration advantage for Democrats in the district, Devlin could be vulnerable to a challenge from a candidate with a strong business background and the ability to raise and spend the kind of money Miller appears to have.
Miller, who was briefly a Republican candidate for a House District 29 (Hillsboro) seat in 2010, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Updated at 12:15 pm with comment from Miller.
says he filed a candidate committee on April 15 because he'd become aware that polling he'd paid for earlier obligated him to do so. He says, however, that although he is strongly considering entering the District 19 race, he's still weighing his options. "At this point, I've not made any decision to run for any office,"
He says he expects to make a decision in the next couple of weeks but notes that since he's not running as candidate of either major party, election rules allow him several months to make a final decision.
Miller says that although he's been a Republican for most of his life, he became an Independent about a year ago. "It's not a rejection of either party," he says. "I've always supported candidates in both major parties and I've decided that being an independent is the best fit for me."
When Miller made his candidate filing on April 15, he also sent a letter to Secretary of State Kate Brown,
who oversees the Elections Division, explaining why he filed and explaining he had not decided to run.
Here's a copy of that letter: