SALEM — Knute Buehler, who is vying for a seat in the state House, isn’t a newbie when it comes to building a lofty war chest.
While running for Secretary of State in 2012, the Bend orthopedic surgeon showed quickly he could raise large amounts of money in a short amount of time.
This weekend, he received a $35,000 check, a hefty amount this early on for any House legislative race. The check puts his ending cash balance for the race to replace Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, who is running for the U.S. Senate, at about $117,250.
“It’s a bit of a jaw-dropping number at this point in the race,” said Len Bergstein, a veteran lobbyist in Salem and the president of Northwest Strategies, Inc.
The check is from James Young, the former CEO of Entek Manufacturing, based in Lebanon. Young did not return a call for comment.
Bergstein said there are a couple of issues at play. First, more money is flowing into politics in general.
“If you’re alive and breathing, you’re watching this all across the country,” Bergstein said. “The big picture is, there’s more at stake. … With Congress in gridlock, some (key) decisions are shifting to the state Legislature.”
Bergstein also noted that the House is losing a handful of longtime Republican players that have held leadership positions.
“You can say there’s a bit of a brain drain and Republicans should be looking around and encourage a guy like Knute Buehler,” Bergstein said.
During his bid for Secretary of State, Buehler hired the woman behind 2012 gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley’s fundraising efforts. Dudley lost to Gov. John Kitzhaber but brought in a record $10 million.
Buehler filed the $35,000 check this weekend but received it earlier in the month. The campaign finance portion of the state’s Secretary of State website has been shut down for nearly three weeks after an unauthorized user tried to hack the website.
The website is back up, and Secretary of State Kate Brown said Monday she recommends people who have ORESTAR and Central Business Registry passwords and use the same information elsewhere change their information.
Buehler noted that most of his donations have come from hundreds of individuals.
“Health care, as you can imagine, is really front of mind for a lot of people,” he said. “I think they are encouraged to see a doctor stepping up to try to retool and solve this problem we got ourselves into.”
Buehler said Young is a longtime friend with family and deep connections in Central Oregon.
Craig Wilhelm is the Democratic candidate vying for the House seat. The race is expected to be hotly contested, with Democrats holding a slight voter registration edge over Republicans.
Wilhelm is a West Point graduate and a combat war veteran.
He has about $8,900 in the bank, according to the state’s secretary of state website.
—Reporter, 541-554-1162; firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version Young’s job description was incorrect. The Bulletin regrets the error.