Former Lawmaker, Ballot Measure Author and Almost-Governor Kevin Mannix Will Run for the House

Mannix will see if there’s a fourth act in his long and productive political career.

It’s not every day that a politician with Kevin Mannix’s résumé jumps into a race for the Oregon House.

But Mannix, a Republican, announced Thursday that he’d seek the Salem-area House District 21 seat long held by state Rep. Brian Clem, a Democrat. County commissioners appointed Rep. Chris Hoy (D-Salem) to replace Clem, who served for eight terms before resigning late last year.

Mannix, a lawyer, represented Salem in the Oregon House from 1989 to 1996 as a Democrat. (Call that Act 1 of his political journey.)

A prolific author of legislation, Mannix, 72, also put many measures on the ballot, most notably 1994′s Measure 11, which instituted mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes and has been at the center of Oregon’s criminal justice debate ever since (that was Act 2). Reformers have chipped away at Measure 11 but have never found the support or political will to repeal it.

In 1997, Mannix switched his party registration to Republican, a relatively rare move for an Oregon elected official. After a stint in the Oregon Senate, he won reelection to the House in 1998, joining what was then a GOP majority.

Mannix ran for attorney general in 2000, losing to Democrat Hardy Myers 50% to 45%. He did even better in the governor’s race in 2002: Democrat Ted Kulongoski won with 49%; Mannix got 46% and Libertarian Tom Cox took 5%, earning more votes than Kulongoski’s margin of victory.

Mannix became the chair of the Oregon GOP and would run again for governor, falling short in the 2006 primary, and for the 5th Congressional District in 2008, also losing in the primary. (Call that Act 3.)

A frequent presence in the Capitol since his last run, Mannix never fully left politics. In 2020, he sued unsuccessfully to block Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders closing schools, churches and businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, he’s looking for a fourth act. In a statement announcing his desire to return to the legislative chamber where he started his political career more than 30 years ago, Mannix nodded to the increase in crime that has accompanied the pandemic and, in the early 1990s, fueled the passage of Measure 11.

“I am running to return to the Oregon House because I have witnessed the erosion of public safety by the Legislature and the lack of support for victims of crime in Oregon,” Mannix said. “Oregonians—especially crime victims—need a trusted advocate serving them.”