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Oregon Now Has Third Major Political Party

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The state of Oregon now has a third major political party, according to the secretary of state. The Independent Party has achieved the status that, until now, was enjoyed by only Democrats and Republicans.

More than 5 percent of registered Oregon voters now belong to the Independent Party. Critics say the party has grown in part because some people signed up by accident, thinking they were registering as unaffiliated with any party. But party officials say it’s because people are looking for a viable third option.

Sal Peralta, the Oregon Independent Party secretary, says the milestone will raise visibility.

"It will create more opportunities for us to recruit candidates,” Peralta said. “I think it will be easier somewhat to recruit higher-profile candidates."

Having major party status means that the state will pay for the Independent Party primary in 2016, just like it pays for the Democratic and Republican primaries.

But the party needs to keep five percent of all registered voters in order to maintain its status.

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.