SALEM — The cherry blossoms on the grounds of the Capitol are blooming, signaling the true arrival of spring. This year the blossoms also signal the approaching primary election, now just a month away. While Knute Buehler has consistently trained his political fire on Gov. Kate Brown, he must first get past conservatives Greg Wooldridge and Sam Carpenter in the Republican primary. If the most recent election cycle has shown anything, it is to take no election for granted. Buehler’s efforts top this week’s roundup of political and government news.

Winner, yes — endorsement, no

Buehler squeaked out a one-vote victory in the Washington County GOP preference vote Saturday. Buehler won with 24 votes from the party’s central committee, with Wooldridge receiving 23 votes. Carpenter won 16 votes, and Bruce Cuff had seven. Five members abstained. The vote was closely watched because unlike other governor forums around the state, the Washington County party said it would endorse a candidate at the end. That would mean inclusion on voter slate cards targeted at 83,000 registered Republicans in the county, one of the largest concentrations in Oregon.

But a Buehler endorsement fell short on two counts.

The group present was two votes shy of a quorum. And, Buehler failed to win the required 60 percent of the vote (he received 33 percent) to get an official nod. Washington County Party Chair Tracy Hodl said the vote was nonetheless a good outcome for Buehler.

“I’m not sure that you could say we’re neutral since Knute did win the straw poll,” she said.

Wooldridge and Carpenter appear to have split the conservative vote — a model that backers of the more moderate Buehler hope carries over to the primary itself.

Big pensions

Joe Robertson, former president of Oregon Health & Science University, is now the top state pension recipient, receiving $913,335 per year — or $76,111.25 per month. No. 2 is OHSU surgeon Johnny Delashaw at $684,944. At No. 3 is former University of Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti, at $558,690. Though the median Public Employees Retirement System retiree receives about $24,000 per year, the Eugene Register-Guard tabulated that there are now 2,143 people collecting PERS pensions of more than $100,000 a year. That’s up from 850 people in 2011.

PERS has a projected $25 billion shortfall. The New York Times on Sunday profiled the Oregon pension system, calling it a “severe, self-inflicted crisis” that is forcing cities and school districts to cut programs and lay off workers to pay for benefit packages designed in another era.”

Endorsements

In an effort to break out of the crowded pack of seven Democrats running in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District with an eye on replacing Republican Rep. Greg Walden, candidates have been lining up endorsements.

Bend city councilors Nathan Boddie and Barb Campbell are among 18 past and former elected officials and community leaders endorsing Jamie McLeod-Skinner, of Terrebonne. Jennifer Neahring, of Bend, has been endorsed in the same race by Bend Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell, Bend Councilor Bruce Abernethy, Bend activist Chris Van Dyke and former U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin. Eric Burnette, of Hood River, has endorsements from the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters and Working Families Party. More endorsements are expected as the primary nears.

Last chance

April 24 is the last day residents can register to vote or change their voter registration in time for the May 15 primary. Democrats and Republicans have been encouraging nonaffiliated voters, who make up about a third of all voters in Deschutes County, to register with their party before the deadline. Nonaffiliated voters cannot vote in the Republican and Democratic primaries.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misreported the PERS funding shortfall. The Bulletin regrets the error.

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