Campaign 2018 erupted in Central Oregon last week when Bend’s resident surgeon-turned-statesman, Knute Buehler, announced he would run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.
The declaration by the two-term state House member came 15 months before the general election in November 2018, nine months before the primary in May and even a full month before the secretary of state slides open the window in Salem to accept candidates filing for state political offices.
But you don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar (which Buehler was) to figure out that when running against an incumbent, Kate Brown, in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican governor in a generation and a half, it’s never too early to throw your hat, stethoscope, scrubs, wallet and everything else into the ring. Especially if you’re starting down 10-to-1 in campaign cash.
Buehler’s jumping into the governor’s race meant he would be jumping out of his state House seat. Now, Bend-area politicians have to decide rather quickly if they want to take a shot at Buehler’s soon-to-be-vacant state House seat.
Major-party candidates can file as early as Sept. 7, though candidates can get in — or withdraw — from the race over the next six months.
With Democratic dominance of the Legislature hanging in the balance, biding one’s time on the decision may mean watching a chance fly by and into the lap of another.
It should make for good conversation as left, right and somewhere-in-the-middle organizations gather for an end-of-summer get-together on Labor Day weekend.
Some locals are stepping up to say no or maybe to running for the 54th House District seat held by Buehler. Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, a Democrat, said, “I’ll be looking at 2018” but is concentrating on city issues for now. Mayor Casey Roats, who was elected under a nonpartisan banner but has affiliated with the Republican Party in the past, didn’t see Salem in his foreseeable future: “City Hall is as far as I can get away from work and home.”
Republicans definitely not running include Reagan Knopp, the Oregon Catalyst website editor and son of state Sen. Tim Knopp. “I’m not moving back to Bend,” he said via Twitter. Also out: two GOP generations of Congers. Jordan, an aide to Buehler, will be policy director for Buehler’s campaign. His father, former state Rep. Jason Conger, who walked away from the seat in 2014 and into private law practice, has no interested in a House rerun.
A Bulletin article outlined how Buehler running for governor endangered GOP efforts to block a supermajority in the Legislature, where Democrats are one seat short in the House and Senate from being able to pass financial bills — including taxes — without Republican help. A top aide to House GOP leadership said last week that Buehler’s seat was “ground zero” for the GOP campaign efforts to hold the line in the Legislature. Reagan Knopp and other Republicans point out that if Buehler were to beat Brown, Democrats would need 40 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate to override a Gov. Buehler veto. Democrats are currently five votes short in the House and two votes short in the Senate.
On your mark. Get set ... Wait!
When Buehler announced his decision to run for governor last week, he said he would be filing the next day. The only problem is the window for candidates to file their candidacy does not open until Sept. 7. However, Buehler was able to file his “Knute for Oregon” campaign committee and begin fundraising for the race.
The Running Woman
Gov. Kate Brown has been in constant campaign mode for five years, though not always by choice. After beating Buehler in 2012 for secretary of state, she had a brief respite off the ballot in 2014. Then Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015; secretary of state takes over under the Oregon Constitution. Brown got the title and power, but not the time. In 2016, she ran to fill the final two years of Kitzhaber’s four-year term, which he won in 2014. If she wants her own four-year term, she will have to win the May Democratic primary and the November 2018 general election. The upside to all of this is Brown’s political apparatus has had a lot of practice, while her “Kate Brown for Governor” committee has been able to raise funds nonstop.
Wyden in Bend
The protracted debate over health care in the Senate forced U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to cancel some events in the state during the August recess. But Oregon’s senior senator will make his planned visit to Central Oregon on Thursday. He will have a morning briefing on firefighting strategy in Redmond, address the unmanned aircraft (drones) convention in Bend, and hold a town hall in Warm Springs.
Merkley endorses Brown
The early activity in the governor’s race has even veteran politicians playing catch-up. In an interview in Eugene on Monday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley was asked if he is endorsing his fellow Democrat in her bid for a new four-year term next year. “Nobody’s asked me that yet, but yes, I am endorsing Kate Brown.” Would he campaign for her? “Absolutely.”
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