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Medford newcomer will run against Esquivel

A little 11th-hour arm-twisting by Rep. Peter Buckley coaxed a 63-year-old Medford Democrat into running for the Oregon House seat now held by Sal Esquivel.

Lynn Howe filed her candidacy papers with the state late Tuesday afternoon and is the only Democrat running for the 6th District in the May 20 election.

Howe, who is with the Library Advisory Committee, the League of Women Voters and the Citizens for County Solutions, would challenge Esquivel, a Medford Republican, in the November election.

A resident of Medford for a year, Howe said her decision was made at the last minute. "It hadn't been on my horizon at all," she said. "It was Peter doing the talking. He said people have the right to a choice."

Buckley, who considers Esquivel a friend, said that as a Democratic member of the House leadership he wanted to get a Democrat on the ticket in every district in this area and scrambled for volunteers Tuesday.

Buckley said he was unsuccessful finding challengers to Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point and Rep. George Gilman of Medford, who are both in strong Republican districts. Richardson has one Republican challenger in the primary, Robert Schutz of Grants Pass.

"I don't like seeing any district without a Democrat's name on the ballot," he said.

Buckley said he has a good working relationship with Esquivel in Salem, but he said they are political opposites. "I just feel mine is the best one for the state," he said, referring to his political philosophy.

Esquivel's district is a challenging one for a Democrat to win, though Mike Moran, a former Medford police lieutenant and Democrat, did surprisingly well in the 2006 election, Buckley said.

Buckley said Howe told him she would run, but has limited resources and time to devote to the effort.

"She knows she doesn't have the resources to run an all-out campaign," he said.

Howe, referring to the resources she has available, said, "If I'd planned on a campaign that would have been different."

She said it's important to have someone challenge Esquivel. "It's giving people a chance to voice an opinion."

Asked if some might wonder whether she's a serious candidate, she responded, "You can only do what you can do."

Before moving here, Howe lived in Detroit, Mich., for 20 years and grew up in Kentucky. Her husband, Jim, went to Medford Senior High School.

She said she is particularly attracted to the Medford area where she has found it easy to get involved in local causes.

"There is a strong sense of community here that people want to work together," she said.

Esquivel, responding to Howe's candidacy, said, "Bless her heart. She's just filling a slot."

Even though she's not a high-profile candidate, Esquivel said he plans on putting together a strong campaign.

"I always run like I'm behind," he said.

Esquivel doesn't resent the fact that his friend looked for a candidate to run against him.

"That's not demeaning for him to do his job, and it is not demeaning for me to do my job," he said.

When Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker was in bad health recently, Esquivel's name came up as a possible replacement.

Esquivel said Walker, who suffers from Crohn's disease, appears to be doing better, but he didn't rule out the option of taking a commissioner seat if it became available.

"I never close the door," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.