Gary A. Warner
The Bulletin

SALEM — Circle Sept. 12 on the Oregon political calendar — that’s the day candidates can sign up with the secretary of state to run for office next year. But the race for money — what the late California State Assembly Speaker Jess “Big Daddy” Unruh famously called “the mother’s milk of politics” — is already well underway. In Oregon, campaign finance committees are cranking up, while key political players are declaring themselves in, out or on the fence for top races. Hold on tight — only 15 months until the November 2020 election headlined by President Donald Trump’s reelection bid.

Knopp a nope for secretary of state

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said the events of the 2019 Legislature, sponsoring campaign finance legislation, and his role in the walkout by 11 Republican senators has not changed his mind about seeking to become secretary of state in 2020. “I’m not running for SOS,” Knopp said Thursday.

Knopp has amended his filing with the secretary of state so his candidate finance committee is officially raising funds for the May 2020 primary for Senate District 27.

Knopp said he will have an announcement later to officially say whether he’ll seek another four-year term.

While Knopp says he is out, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Vial, a Republican, told The Oregonian last week being No. 2 in the office has “caused me to seriously consider running” for the top job. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, former congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner made a splash last week by confirming she will run. Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, a frequently mentioned possible candidate for the office, did little to dispel the conjecture by recently announcing he’ll host a seven-city “Campaign Finance Road Show” that will make a stop in Bend on Sept. 23.

Adair endorses Helt’s reelection

If a Republican wants to mount a primary challenge against state Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, don’t expect any help from Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair.

“I am committed to backing Cheri,” Adair said last week. “She’s the best choice for Republicans. She’s in a district where only 35% of the voters are Republicans. She’s done a great job — she gave a very impassioned speech when the Legislature voted not to give Deschutes County a new (circuit court) judge. I am actually with her on vaccinations.”

Adair knows about GOP primary challenges firsthand. She upset incumbent county Commissioner Tammy Baney in the May 2018 primary, then went on to razor-thin general election win in November over Democrat James Cook.

Incumbents and front-runners have been derailed or slowed by primary challenges in the past. Knopp won his first election to the Senate in 2012 when he was a late entry into the GOP primary, knocking off Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend. Bend Republican businessman Sam Carpenter believes he would have beat then-Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, in the 2018 GOP primary for governor had Navy aviator Greg Wooldridge, of Portland, not jumped into the race, too. Carpenter and Wooldridge split the conservative vote, allowing Buehler to win with less than 50% of the Republican primary vote. Buehler lost to incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, in the general election.

Wyden back in town

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is returning to Deschutes County for a town hall Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Coats Campus Center Dining Hall at Central Oregon Community College. The event is at 2600 NW College Way. Wyden will talk about a variety of issues, including prescription drug prices, trade with China, immigration, gun control, wildfire prevention and election security, as well as whether Congress should impeach President Trump. Wyden’s office suggests parking on College Way, across the street or near the bookstore or library.

Election oops

Primaries are a headache but are not avoidable in state races. So, Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, is among a small group of incumbents who will be getting a “fix-it” note soon from the secretary of state’s elections division.

Zika’s campaign finance committee was recently amended to list him as a candidate in the November 2020 general election. Not so fast. Zika should have listed the primary election.

He’s not alone in skipping ahead. Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, also lists herself as a candidate in the general election. The only candidates who get to go straight to November are those in nonpartisan races without a primary. So Bend City Councilors William Moseley and Chris Piper, who have PACs listed for November 2020, are fine right where they are.

Census workers sought

The U.S. Census Bureau has begun taking applications for thousands of workers it needs to perform the once-a-decade national head count next year.

Census workers will be paid $14.50 per hour in Central Oregon. Go online to for information on jobs and how to apply.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750,