Oregonians have apparently become frustrated with the Democratic and Republican parties. The fastest growing political affiliation in Oregon has been “not affiliated.” The state’s Independent Party has also been growing, achieving “major party” status under state law in 2015.

The Independent Party is flexing its major party status. It is insisting that Patrick Starnes, the Independent Party candidate for governor, be allowed to participate in debates between the Democratic candidate, Gov. Kate Brown, and the Republican candidate, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend. The Independent Party is right. Starnes should be allowed to participate.

The safe prediction is that Brown or Buehler will be Oregon’s next governor. They are the people Oregonians most need to hear debate. And asking the Democratic and Republican parties to welcome more party competition is a lot like asking wolves to discover the advantages of going vegan. But it’s unfair to exclude Starnes simply because he may be less likely to win. Drawing the line at major parties is certainly more reasonable than excluding Starnes because his party is not the status quo.

The Independent Party is unlikely to shatter Oregon’s status quo duopoly any time soon. But if anything is going to fuel further dissatisfaction with the Democratic and Republican parties, it would be to exclude a qualified candidate from being allowed to debate. Brown and Buehler should insist Starnes be included in any debates.

— Wescom News Service (Bend Bulletin)