No Democrats filed to run for Jackson County commissioner in the May 20 primary.

No Democrats filed to run for Jackson County commissioner in the May 20 primary.

On Tuesday, the last day to file for the primary, four Republicans had filed for the two open commissioner seats.

In Position 1, Rick Dyer is running against Henry Marlowe Jr.

In Position 3, Joel Ockunzzi is opposed by Colleen Roberts.

Two Democrats have stepped forward in two local races for state representative.

In House District 4, which will be vacated by gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson, Democrat Darlene Taylor of Central Point and Republican Duane Stark of Grants Pass are the only candidates in the primary election.

In House District 55, represented by Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, Democrat Richard Phay of Prineville has filed to run. District 55 encompasses a large swath of Jackson County, from the border of Medford through Eagle Point and over the Cascades.

Lynn Howe, chairwoman of Jackson County Democrats, attributed the lack of candidates from her party to other pressing local issues, such as creation of a library district, funding for the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and the effort to ban genetically modified organisms.

"A lot of energy is going into the immediacy of these concerns," she said.

Howe said many Democrats believe Jackson County has abandoned districts and services by cutting their funding.

"There is a fear that libraries and Extension services will be closed," she said.

In the commissioner races, Central Point resident Marlowe, a retired teacher and businessman, is running against Medford resident Dyer, who is licensed to practice law in California and owns Northwest Energy Solutions, a construction company focused on home remodeling and energy-efficiency projects. Dyer has been on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board for almost five years.

White City resident Ockunzzi, who has been involved in a number of local organizations, is running against Prospect resident Roberts, a 20-year owner of Sensational Sweets Bakery in Eagle Point.

Richardson, R-Central Point, is running for governor, so his seat will be contested by Stark and Taylor.

Stark is a 36-year-old Grants Pass pastor who's been endorsed by Richardson and other local Republicans.

He was a legislative aide for Richardson and believes he shares many core fiscal and social values with Richardson.

"We are both unique individuals," Stark said. "He's a trial lawyer — I'm not."

Even though Republicans enjoy a sizeable registration advantage, Stark plans to make the rounds in communities throughout his district, which has the highest population centers in Jackson County.

A graduate of the University of Oregon and Multnomah University, a Bible college in Portland, Stark has never held an elected office. He served as coordinator of SERVE GP, a group that aims to connect churches in Grants Pass to work on community service projects.

He has previously worked as a mental health supervisor, fitness club manager, community service coordinator and in sheet-metal fabrication and drafting.

Taylor, who has not run for elected office previously, has served on local committees and commissions. She said she knows Richardson personally.

"I think he's a hard-working person," Taylor said. "I think he's a good person, but we need change moving forward."

As a Democrat, Taylor said she has a 2-to-1 registration disadvantage in House District 4, which spans Eagle Point to Josephine County.

"It's been 'red' a long time," she said.

Taylor said she will need to energize voters of all political stripes to get elected.

"With all the problems in Josephine County, people might want to make that change," she said.

A graduate of Southern Oregon University, Taylor, who is retired, brings an extensive background in real estate, research analysis, business management and juvenile detention security. She's served on the Oregon Women's Commission and a committee to help expand Rogue Community College.

In Senate District 3, incumbent Alan Bates, D-Medford, and Republican Dave Dotterrer are the only candidates.

In House District 6, incumbent Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, is unopposed in the Republican primary and no Democrats have filed to run for the seat.

Chuck Heauser, chairman of Jackson County Republicans, said a lot of well-qualified members of his party have filed for various races.

"I feel very good about the candidates running in the commissioner race," he said.

Over the past few months, he said, Republicans hadn't heard anything about possible Democratic candidates in the commissioner race.

"It does surprise me to a degree," he said.

Heauser said it's possible that a write-in candidate could come forward in the race for House District 5. Only Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, has filed in that race.

Republicans are particularly interested in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jeff Merkley, Heauser said.

Five Republicans are running in the primary, including Mark Callahan of Salem, Jason Conger of Bend, Timothy Crawley of Portland, Jo Rae Perkins of Albany and Monica Wehby of Portland. Democratic challengers include William Bryk of Brooklyn, N.Y. (who has filed in several states in recent years), and Pavel Goberman, whose mailing address is listed in Beaverton.

Republicans will hold a candidate forum for the Senate seat at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 18, in the Medford library.

Heauser said Republicans believe Merkley is vulnerable to being unseated.

"We're putting a lot of attention into that race," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.