Congress hopeful drops GOP label

SALEM — Congressional contender Joel Haugen, who angered Republicans by endorsing Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, is withdrawing as a GOP candidate and will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot under the label of the Independent Party.

Haugen won the Republican nomination in the May primary in northwest Oregon's 1st Congressional District.

But since then party members have shunned him because of his support for Obama and his endorsement of Democrat Jeff Merkley in Oregon's U.S. Senate race.

At a news conference Friday, Haugen said it makes sense for him to run as the Independent Party candidate, since that party earlier backed him.

"My message in this is: Let's get away from this partisan silliness and partisan nonsense and make decisions based on what's best for your country and your state," the 58-year-old Scappoose businessman said.

It's too late for Republicans to nominate a replacement candidate. That means the November ballot will list Haugen and the Democratic incumbent, Rep. David Wu.

Jeff Smith, spokesman for 1st District Republicans, said he was "disappointed" in the turn of events and the fact that there won't be any GOP congressional candidate on the ballot.

"There really is no animosity," Smith said. "The problem is, Joel Haugen spent all of his time running against the Republican Party. To my knowledge, he never spent any time campaigning against David Wu."

Haugen earlier had accepted the nomination of the Independent Party, and he joined in a lawsuit seeking to get both his Republican and Independent nominations listed on the Nov. 4 ballot. However, a judge rejected the lawsuit last week, siding with Oregon elections officials who say state law allows a candidate to list only one party.

Independent Party spokesman Sal Peralta said the party was glad to have Haugen as its nominee.

"Joel represents a moderate choice that speaks to a majority of people in the district," Peralta said of Haugen, who advocates for a national health plan and an immediate pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Haugen, for his part, said he can understand why Republicans are upset with him, but felt it was important to put his own beliefs and principles ahead of party considerations.

"It seems like we've gotten into this pettiness that makes no sense," he said.

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