Rich Vial Offers a Lesson on Where the Oregon Republican Party Went Wrong

He explained to our editorial board how his willingness to buck his party led to his exile.

Across Oregon and the nation, Republicans are wondering where the “red wave” went.

A conservative backlash against President Joe Biden and Gov. Kate Brown was so widely forecast it became conventional wisdom. But that red tide never came in. We’ll leave the nationwide summary to other media, but in Oregon, the biggest Republican pickup was Congressional District 5, which Democrats had all but conceded for the past month.

The governorship? A majority in either chamber of the statehouse? Nope. Worse, Republicans lost on several ballot measures of consequence—including one that will compel them to give Democrats a quorum, on pain of losing their seats. That’s a blow to the signature GOP strategy of the past six years: the walkout.

Where did it all go wrong? Perhaps a clue rests with Rich Vial.

He used to be a Republican. He used to be a state lawmaker, representing House District 26 for one term. This election cycle, he sought a return to Salem as an independent—and explained to our editorial board how his willingness to buck his party in 2017 led to his exile.

Vial’s comeback attempt—he ran as an unaffiliated candidate for Senate District 18 last week—ended poorly with Vial getting just 10.5% of the vote.

The issue where Vial showed backbone? It’s back in the news this week, too: gun control. Oregon voters last week passed Measure 114, which requires a training and a permit to buy a gun and limits the number of bullets in a magazine to 10. Already, some sheriffs are saying they will not enforce it.

Watch the video:

The 10.5% of the vote Vial received in Senate District 18 last week is about a third of the votes received by Republican nominee Kimberly Rice, a former schoolteacher who refused to be vaccinated. Their votes combined wouldn’t have defeated state Rep. Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha), who now rises to the Senate with 55% of ballots cast.