SALEM — The Independent Party of Oregon on Thursday endorsed Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Deschutes County, over the winner of the party’s May primary, Mark Roberts.

The reason: Roberts’ posts on Twitter in early August likening first lady Melania Trump to a prostitute who “works by the hour,” among other comments.

“After checking with the Oregon secretary of state and learning that it is not possible to have a candidate removed from the ballot for conduct that brings disrepute to the party, the officers agreed to endorse McLeod-Skinner,” said Independent Party chair Sal Peralta.

Asked if he wanted to respond to the party’s action, Roberts emailed from his campaign web address “not really.”

“I’m just an independent voter unaffiliated to any party,” Roberts said.

Under state law, Roberts will remain on the Nov. 6 general election ballot and appear as the only official Independent Party candidate. The Independent Party is asking its members and supporters to ignore the party’s candidate on the ballot and vote instead for McLeod-Skinner, who won the May 15 Democratic primary to face incumbent U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River.

Roberts, who lists himself on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website as a truck driver living in White City, in Jackson County, won an uncontested Independent Party primary in the May 15 election.

The Independent Party of Oregon has just under 121,000 registered members in Oregon, according to the Secretary of State. It is recognized by the state as the third major party, along with Democrats and Republicans.

The Independent Party’s inability to remove Roberts echoes what happened with Nathan Boddie, who won the Democratic primary for the 54th House District, only to have the party withdraw its support amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Boddie refused to step aside in the primary, and under state law he could not be removed as the party’s nominee. He will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as the Democratic nominee in the district, where registered Democrats are the largest group.

Many prominent Democrats, including Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, have thrown their support to Amanda La Bell, the nominee of the Working Families Party, a minor party in Oregon.

Walden is seeking his 11th two-year term representing the sprawling district that includes most of Eastern and Southern Oregon. Walden is the only Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation. As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he has shepherded legislation over the past two years favored by President Donald Trump on health care, taxes and net neutrality. That has made him a target of Democrats, and now Independents, who hope for an upset in the district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 and has regularly returned Walden to Washington with more than 60 percent of the vote each election.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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