SALEM — With one week to go until the Oregon primary, politics is dominating political news in and around the state capital. Here’s the latest as races come down to the wire.

GOP bona fides vs. life experience

The GOP primary race in the 53rd House District has turned rough as the election approaches. The more aggressive push has come from Ben Schimmoller, the Bend GOP activist whose campaign has created a website attacking opponent Jack Zika for being a registered Democrat in Texas in 2008 and other issues. “He changed political parties five times in 10 years. Can we trust him with our vote?” the website asks.

Zika, a Redmond real estate broker and city planning commissioner, has countered that Schimmoller’s only career is as a political activist. “We have more than enough activists in Salem — we need more people with real jobs,” Zika said Monday.

The outcome of the primary is especially important because the district has a GOP majority and is currently represented by a Republican.

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, is retiring.

The winner of the GOP race will immediately be the favorite in the race against the winner of the Democratic primary between Eileen Kiely and Bill Trumble.

53rd District and PACs

Zika is winning the fundraising battle, bringing in $36,000 in contributions while spending $29,000. He has $7,000 cash on hand as the primary race enters its final week. Schimmoller has raised and spent $18,000 in his campaign and has $6,000 cash on hand. Both candidates received the bulk of their money from one source. Zika has received just over $25,000 from the Oregon Realtors PAC, which supports candidates and other PACs that support its pro-development agenda. Schimmoller has received $11,925 from Action PAC, a Republican-oriented political action committee run by Jim Pasero and Bridget Barton, the directors of Third Century Solutions, a consulting firm in Lake Oswego.

Action PAC has also given $2,500 to Cheri Helt, the lone Republican candidate for Bend’s 54th House District. Action PAC’s biggest involvement is in the Washington County district attorney race, where it has spent over $52,000 to support Kevin Barton. Action PAC has also given $15,000 to the campaign of Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, who is running for the officially nonpartisan office of commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Governor candidates on abortion, climate change

The Portland Tribune asked the GOP candidates for governor their opinions on issues, including abortion and climate change. Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, said “the issue of abortion is between a woman and a doctor — not government and politicians — and it should be safe, legal and rare.” Bend businessman Sam Carpenter said “abortion should only be allowed for the health of the mother or in cases of rape or incest — and even then, adoption should be the first option.” Portland motivational speaker Greg Wooldridge, who has the endorsement of Oregon Right to Life, said, “I am pro-life. Period.” He said abortion has become too easy to obtain under Gov. Kate Brown.

On climate change, Buehler and Wooldridge said they believed the human effect on climate was real but that Democrats have used it as an issue to reward special interests. Carpenter said there was “insufficient evidence” for a human effect and that regardless, environmental issues need to be balanced with economics.

Walden war chest

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, has raised $3.6 million in the 2017-18 cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission. He’s spent $1.4 million. Combined with money left over from the previous election cycle, Walden has $3.2 million cash on hand.

According to the campaign finance website OpenSecrets.org, Walden received 55 percent of his money from political action committees, with the top four PACs run by the pharmaceutical, health care, oil and gas, and electricity and utility industries.

Walden’s fundraising is his best showing ever, at a time when the average House member’s fundraising has been sluggish. In 2016, the average House member raised $1.73 million. In the current election cycle, the average is $1.1 million. The average amount raised by House members peaked in 2012 at $1.76 million. Higher-ranking members of Congress tend to raise larger amounts. Walden is chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. He is also a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans.

None of Walden’s challengers has raised $200,000 or more.

Oregon Territory birthday

Saturday was the 175th Founders Day, celebrating the day in 1843 when a provisional territory government was formed by a vote of settlers at Champoeg, an outpost on the Willamette River about halfway between Oregon City and Salem. The group included farmers, trappers, trading post operators and missionaries.

The original territory covered the current states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. It was the first organized, settler-led government west of the Rocky Mountains and is credited with securing the United States foothold in a region where Great Britain also held sway. Oregon became a state in 1859.

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

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misstated the source of Ben Schimmoller’s campaign cash. The Bulletin regrets the error.

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