Weaver Stuns Democrats with Withdrawal Announcement
SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ Rep. Jim Weaver, citing a House investigation of his campaign finances, stunned fellow Oregon Democrats on Wednesday by officially withdrawing his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Bob Packwood in November.
The announcement left Democrats scrambling to find a replacement candidate to take on the well-financed Packwood less than three months before the election.
″The situation angers me,″ said State Democratic Chairwoman Judy Carnahan. ″Democrats throughout the state are going to be very disappointed. They put a lot of faith in Congressman Weaver.″
Ms. Carnahan said Democrats tentatively plan to meet Aug. 23 in Portland to name a new candidate. Details on what process the party will use to select a replacement were still being worked out, she said.
Two Democratic state legislators who were defeated by Weaver in the May primary, Rep. Rick Bauman and Sen. Rod Monroe, both of Portland, on Wednesday said they were interested in replacing Weaver. However, Ms. Carnahan said Democrats were not legally bound to pick one of them.
Weaver announced his resignation in a letter that an aide delivered to Oregon Secretary of State Barbara Roberts’ office. In it, the six-term congressman from southwest Oregon’s 4th District cited what he said were efforts by some in the media to distort his past campaign finances.
Weaver was to appear Thursday before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to discuss his borrowing of $80,000 in campaign money that he lost in speculation on the commodities market.
″I am absolutely confident the committee will clear my name of unfounded allegations,″ he said Tuesday.
Weaver from the beginning had been viewed as a long-shot against Packwood, who has held a commanding lead in the polls and has raised more than $7 million since his last election. Weaver’s last campaign finance report showed he had raised about $15,000.
Packwood’s press secretary, Etta Fielek, on Wednesday said Weaver’s withdrawal would have no effect on the way Packwood conducted his campaign for a fourth term.
″We have never based our campaign strategy around Jim Weaver or any other person,″ Ms. Fielek said. ″We always based our strategy around a positive campaign about Bob Packwood.″
The Democrats lost their candidate against Packwood in midstream once before.
Former Sen. Wayne Morse, whom Packwood narrowly unseated in 1968, won the Democratic primary in May 1974 in a comeback attempt, but died in July. Democrats later nominated then-state Sen. Betty Roberts of Portland, who lost to Packwood.
Weaver, a former commodities trader and real estate developer, has said he invested campaign money in hopes of realizing profits that would free him from having to accept special-interest political action committee donations. Instead, he lost the money.
Weaver said he repaid the borrowed campaign money by releasing his campaign treasury of obligations to repay loans he made to finance his 1974 campaign.
Weaver said he had hoped the House ethics panel would have completed its investigation months ago.
″I never knew this would go into the fall campaign season,″ Weaver said. ″It means Packwood could smear me up one side and down the other, and I have no way of fighting it.
″I may have done something stupid, but it was scrupulous.″
State Elections Director Ray Phelps on Wednesday said the Democrats have to choose a candidate before Aug. 26 if they want the candidate to be included in the voters’ pamphlet distributed to all Oregon households.
Packwood is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and has gained national attention for being the architect of a sweeping tax overhaul plan. Unpopular with some conservative Republicans, he was held to 57 percent of the vote in the GOP primary last May against newcomer Joe Lutz.
In winning the Democratic primary, Weaver drew 16,000 more votes than Packwood.