The Independent Party of Oregon today said it will take legal action to ensure that its nominee for governor, Patrick Starnes, is included in debates featuring the major party candidates, incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, and state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend).
"Several media organizations and non-profit organizations, including KOBI-NBC TV, KATU-ABC TV, Portland State University, KGW-NBC TV and Children First for Oregon, may have extended debate invitations to the Democratic and Republican nominees for Governor but not to the Independent Party nominee, Patrick Starnes," the IPO said in a statement. "Under Oregon law, any public forum or debate must invite all major party candidates for the office, or else the cost of the debate (and advertising for the debate) becomes an in-kind campaign contribution to the candidates who are invited."
The Independent Party qualified as the state's third major party in 2015, by securing more than five percent of the state's total number of elected voters. The principal benefit of that status is that taxpayers cover the cost of the IPO's primary.
Both Brown and Buehler sought the IPO nomination in addition to the nomination of their own party. But they lost out to Starnes, a cabinet-maker from Brownsville. Starnes edged Buehler 26 percent to 25 percent in the IPO primary.
Since the May elections, Brown and Buehler have been wrangled over how many debates they will have—somewhere between five and ten—but those negotiations have not included Starnes.
It is unclear yet how the organizations seeking to host debates will respond to the IPO but party co-chair Rob Harris said in a statement that the IPO is willing to fight for Starnes' right to debate.
"Our party intends to pursue all state and federal remedies available to us to ensure our candidate's participation in these debates," Harris said.