Cliff Bentz, an Ontario Republican, will move from the House to the state Senate to represent parts of Central and Eastern Oregon in a sprawling district that includes Jefferson County and a swath of northern Deschutes County.
Bentz, 65, was chosen Thursday by representatives of the counties that make up Senate District 30, the largest in the state. Bentz replaces former House Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, who represented the district since 1996. Ferrioli resigned after being appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council.
The move means a replacement must be chosen for Bentz’s 60th House District in Eastern Oregon. The time frame will be tight: The 2018 session of the Legislature begins Feb. 5.
Although Ferrioli was most recently elected to a four-year term in 2016, under state law, Bentz will have to run this year to fill out the remainder of Ferrioli’s term.
Bentz is a familiar figure in the state Capitol and one of several House members over the years who have moved from the 60-member House to the 30-member Senate.
“Senate Republicans are excited to welcome Representative Bentz to our caucus,” said House Minority Leader Jackie Winters, R-Salem. “Rep. Bentz will be a tremendous addition to our team, and I look forward to working with him in the sessions to come.”
Winters was elected late last year by her colleagues to succeed Ferrioli as the GOP leader in the upper chamber. Democrats hold a 17-13 majority in the Senate.
Bentz served as assistant leader to House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.
“Very happy for Rep. Bentz, but we will surely miss him in the House,” tweeted Preston Mann, spokesman for the House Republican Caucus.
Bentz, a rancher and attorney, has served in the House since 2008. He is a graduate of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, and received his law degree from The Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Senate District 30 includes all or part of Baker, Deschutes, Jefferson, Lake, Wasco, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Wheeler, Clackamas, and Marion counties.
Bentz’s House district includes the eastern portion of Ferrioli’s Senate district. It does not include Jefferson and Deschutes counties.
The Senate and House districts are among the most reliably Republican in Oregon. Ferrioli sometimes ran without Democratic opposition. In 2016, he received 70 percent of the vote over Democrat Mark Stringer.
Bentz had no general election opposition in 2010, 2012 and 2016. He won 82 percent of the vote over Democrat Peter Hall in 2014.
According to state law, the seat of a resigning lawmaker must go to a candidate of the same party. The new lawmaker for Senate District 30 was chosen from three candidates recommended by local Republican leaders in the region. Bentz was selected over Dr. Eric Wattenburg, a Sisters resident, and Suzan Ellis Jones, of Bridgeport in Baker County.
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