Four competing to be Oregon treasurer

Job involves oversight of billions in state investments

By Scott Hammers, The Bulletin

NAME: Tobias Read

AGE: 41

EDUCATION: Willamette University, BA; University of Washington, MBA

GOVERNMENT/CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Oregon House, 2007-present

NAME: Chris Telfer

AGE: 66

EDUCATION: University of Denver, BA; assorted postgraduate classes

GOVERNMENT/CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Bend City Council, Oregon Senate, candidate for treasurer, 2010, Oregon Lottery Commissioner

NAME: Jeff Gudman

AGE: 62

EDUCATION: Pomona College, BA; Wharton School of Business, MBA

GOVERNMENT/CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Lake Oswego City Council, 2010-present

NAME: Chris Henry

AGE: 52

EDUCATION: None listed

GOVERNMENT/CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Progressive Party candidate for governor, 2014; Progressive Party candidate for attorney general, 2012; Pacific Green Party candidate for Congress, 2008, 2010

Four candidates are vying in the November election to become Oregon’s next treasurer, overseeing approximately $90 billion in state investments, including those funds invested on behalf of the Public Employees Retirement System.

Oregon’s treasurer also sits on the State Land Board and the State Board of Education.

Current Treasurer Ted Wheeler was appointed to the position in 2010 following the death of Ben Westlund and won the seat in a special election that same year. He won another four-year term in office in 2012, but this year ran for Portland mayor. He won enough of the vote in the May primary to avoid a November runoff, and will take office in January.

Chris Tefler

A former Bend city councilor, Telfer represented Bend in the state Senate as a Republican from 2009 to 2013. She lost her party’s 2012 primary to Tim Knopp, who went on to win the seat that November.

Telfer ran for treasurer once before, as the Republican nominee in the 2010 special election following Westlund’s death in office. She’s one of five appointed members of the state Lottery Commission, runs an accounting company in Bend and teaches accounting at OSU-Cascades.

This year, she’s running as the candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon. Representing a little more than 4 percent of all registered Oregon voters, the Independent Party is the state’s third-largest political party.

Telfer said she would advocate for using some PERS funds to lend to Oregon nonprofits, which would in turn lend the money to would-be homebuyers who are struggling to come up with a down payment.

She said she’d also like to see the treasurer’s office take the lead on creating a banking system for the marijuana industry. Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, federally regulated banks have been hesitant to do business with marijuana businesses, forcing many to conduct most transactions in cash.

Telfer said she’s running to win, but acknowledged it’s an uphill battle running as the first statewide candidate fielded by the party.

“If I were to pull 25 percent, I would hope that would show the Legislature, the governor, the secretary of state, all of those people who are so party-oriented that hey, it’s time to start working together, Oregonians are fed up with it,” she said.

Jeff Gudman

A member of the Lake Oswego City Council, Gudman won the Republican nomination unopposed in May.

Gudman spent much of his working career as a financial analyst and treasurer for large companies and nonprofits.

Gudman said he’s wary of a state-backed bank for the benefit of the marijuana industry. He said a federal solution will be necessary as more and more states legalize marijuana, and he would prefer to defer to the efforts of Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.

“When it comes to finance I always get leery when I hear someone talk about being creative,” he said. “I want the treasurer’s office to be boring — boring is good when it comes to the treasury.”

Gudman said his background in finance gives him a better understanding than the other candidates in the race of the trade-offs — “making the money count” — the state needs to consider when managing its investments.

He said he has no aspirations for any office beyond the treasurer.

“Chris is very good at counting the money, I’m very good at making the money count, and Tobias, Tobias wants to be governor,” he said.

Tobias Read

Read has represented Beaverton in the Oregon House since 2007 and won the Democratic Party’s nomination for treasurer in an unopposed May primary.

After graduating from Willamette University, Read worked briefly in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Treasury, preparing daily briefings for Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. He returned to the Northwest to earn an MBA at the University of Washington, and then came back to Oregon to take a position with Nike.

Read said the treasurer’s position can be an advocate for longer-term thinking that the Legislature often ignores.

If elected, Read said he would take a particular interest in an initiative he supported in the Legislature, creating a retirement savings program for Oregonians who do not have access to a 401(k) or similar program though work.

The program, set to take effect next July, would offer workers a chance to have a portion of their paycheck diverted to a handful of different investment funds, with a board chaired by the treasurer selecting which funds would be offered.

Read brushed aside Gudman’s suggestion that he sees the position as a steppingstone to higher office.

“I appreciate the compliment, but I’m excited about what the treasurer has in front of them,” he said.

Chris Henry

A nominee of the Pacific Green Party, Henry has no formal training or professional experience in finance or economics.

He is an Air Force veteran, worked as an aircraft mechanic and lives in Gladstone, where he is a truck driver.

Henry said his political awakening was inspired by his grandfather, who was a speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower. Though he knew the Eisenhowers as a young child, it was later when he learned of Eisenhower’s farewell speech at the end of his presidency warning of the dangers of the military-industrial complex that he began thinking seriously about politics.

Henry said he supports the creation of a state bank, which would allow the state to lend to local governments that currently depend on the financial sector to issue bonds. Doing so would keep fees and interest paid on such bonds from flowing out of state, he said, steadying the state economy.

Henry said he’s hoping to maintain ballot access for the Greens by earning at least 1 percent of the vote. Five percent would be a great success, he said, and if he were to win, he said he would surround himself with advisors to get up to speed on the particulars of the office.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,

shammers@bendbulletin.com

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