The Oregon State Capitol in Salem. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
A Republican state representative who has been barred from serving on committees because of a restraining order against him won’t seek a second term and endorsed a candidate to replace him.
Rep. Brian Stout, R-Columbia City, announced his decision to retire at the end of his first term in a post on his Facebook page on Thursday, a few days after the Legislature began its 35-day short session. The next day, Banks real estate agent Darcey Edwards announced that she’ll run for the seat with Stout’s endorsement.
Edwards told the Capital Chronicle she’s running because she’s been looking for a way to serve the state.
“I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I have something I can bring to the table to help my district,” she said.
She was considering jumping into politics when she learned that the seat would be open, and she said voters want someone who can serve in the full capacity after years of diminished representation in Salem.
The interests of the rural 31st House district, which runs north from Gaston to the banks of the Columbia River across from Longview, Washington, have not been priorities in Salem in recent years because Stout and its prior representative, former Democratic Rep. Brad Witt, were both barred from participating in legislative committees because of sexual improprieties.
House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, removed Stout from committees before his term began because Stout was subject to a five-year restraining order from a former campaign volunteer who alleged that he had sexually assaulted her and threatened her life. Rayfield called for Stout to resign last spring after a judge upheld the restraining order.
Stout was silent for months about his election plans and released a short statement this week.
“It is with much thought, prayer and very careful consideration that my wife and I have made the decision to not file and run for re-election this coming year as your state representative,” he said.
Along with Stout’s endorsement, Edwards announced that she’s entering the race with endorsements from Sen. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, former Republican state Sen. Bruce Starr and Oregon Right to Life PAC, the state’s leading anti-abortion political group. Starr, who served in the Legislature from 1999 to 2015, is running again this year to replace Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, who is barred from reelection because he participated in last year’s six-week walkout.
Edwards will face Drew Layda, who ran against Stout in 2022, in the May Republican primary. Layda has become a thorn in the side of some area Republicans for pushing for more information about an annual Columbia County Republican Party fundraiser where guests bid on expensive, hard-to-find bourbon.
Those fundraisers are included in a broad criminal investigation of Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission managers who diverted rare liquors for their own use, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Layda’s skepticism led the Columbia County Republican Party to ban him from all its events and meetings last fall, and he filed a lawsuit against the party over it.
Layda told the Capital Chronicle that he doesn’t know Edwards but that he welcomed the competitive primary. He was also seeking the Right to Life PAC’s support and didn’t know it went with another candidate.
“It’s more healthy when you have people actually participating, more than one or two candidates involved in the process because it’s an indicator more people are paying attention and that’s the end goal,” he said.
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