With Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie refusing to give up his run for the state House in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, liberals hope to salvage the pivotal seat with a third-party candidate.

The Working Families Party, a minor party that often backs pro-labor Democrats, announced Monday that it had nominated Bend nonprofit founder Amanda La Bell as its nominee in the 54th House District. La Bell, a registered Democrat, will appear on the November ballot alongside Democrat Boddie and Republican Cheri Helt.

In a statement, La Bell said she decided to run with the Working Families Party to provide a “real choice” for voters. She previously volunteered to replace Boddie as the Democratic nominee if he chose to drop out of the race.

“Like many in our community, I was shocked to learn of Nathan Boddie’s inappropriate behavior and language toward women, young people, and members of our LGBTQ+ community,” her statement said. “Moreover, his response is not what we expect from our elected leaders. That left us, the voters, with an impossible choice: a Democrat who is not fit for elected office or a Republican who has never been a champion for working families.”

La Bell co-founded the Bend Diaper Bank and the Rebecca Foundation, which provides disposable and cloth diapers to low-income families and free menstrual products to Bend-area middle and high schools.

Her platform calls for recognizing health care, child care and housing as human rights, investing in education and protecting organized labor.

Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkley and former Gov. Barbara Roberts have endorsed La Bell since she filed for office Friday. So have Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell, City Council candidate and 2016 House candidate Gena Goodman-Campbell and local advocacy groups Indivisible Bend and the Vocal Seniority.

Indivisible Bend will have a meet-and-greet with La Bell soon and will canvass for her and promote her campaign events through its email newsletter and social media pages, co-founder Nancy Boever said. The grassroots organization, like other liberal groups, previously endorsed Boddie but withdrew its endorsement after Bend environmental activist Moey Newbold said he groped her in a bar in 2012. Boddie denied the allegations.

“We’re just excited to have a progressive candidate that will represent our values,” Boever said. “She has progressive values that we believe in, so we’re supporting her over Cheri Helt.”

David Shor, organizing director of the Working Families Party, said the party will continue trying to rally support for La Bell, particularly among Democrats. Although the Bend-based 54th House District has been represented by Republicans since 2012, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 18,600 to 12,800.

Boddie and Helt both ran unopposed in their primaries, with high-profile state or federal races on the same ballot — Republicans chose Brown’s challenger, while Democrats had a crowded field of candidates vying to face Rep. Greg Walden — but turnout looked more promising for Boddie. He received about 6,700 votes from registered Democrats to Helt’s roughly 4,100 from Republicans.

“Democrats are rallying behind her, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of the choice,” Shor said.

La Bell is the Working Families Party’s only standalone candidate this year, but it cross-nominated nearly 40 other candidates, he said. Oregon law allows minor parties, including the Working Families Party and the Independent Party of Oregon, to cross-nominate Democrats and Republicans.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, must run Boddie as its nominee because he won the May primary. Deschutes County Democratic Party Chairman Jason Burge said the party’s only recourse to replace Boddie was if he dropped out of the race of his own accord.

County party leaders have met with prospective replacement candidates, including La Bell, and gathered phone numbers for precinct committee persons to ensure they could hold a nominating convention to replace Boddie within three days if he dropped out. But because the deadline to get a candidate in the state voters pamphlet is Tuesday, Democrats are effectively out of time to replace Boddie with a candidate of their own even if he did drop out.

“It looks like that won’t come to fruition,” he said. “All we’ve done is withdraw support because that is really the biggest thing we can do in this race.”

Burge said Boddie has not spoken to the local party since allegations that he had groped Newbold first surfaced. He’s ignored calls from party leaders, fellow city councilors and Brown to drop out of the race.

Boddie did not return a call Monday. He has not responded to calls, texts or emails from The Bulletin in two months, and attempts to reach him at his home or talk to him after the one City Council meeting he’s attended since the end of June were similarly unsuccessful.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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