By Taylor W. Anderson

The Bulletin

SALEM — Eight months after being elected Bend’s House representative, Republican Knute Buehler announced Monday he’s considering a run for governor in 2016.

The announcement comes a week after the close of the legislative session, and after three years of speculation by political analysts about whether Buehler still had his eye on higher office after an unsuccessful run for secretary of state in 2012.

In a statement emailed to his supporters and past donors, Buehler said he would decide by the end of September whether to run for re-election as a representative in the state House, or run for governor.

“I love this job and I’m doing my best to make a difference,” Buehler said. “But I also know that Oregon faces big challenges that demand more courageous and creative leadership than we’re getting from Governor Kate Brown.”

In 2012, Brown defeated Buehler in her second election as Oregon’s secretary of state. Under Oregon’s constitution, she was tapped to become governor this year when John Kitzhaber left the post under federal investigation in February.

The gubernatorial election in 2016 is for the remaining two years of Kitzhaber’s term, and the position will be on the ballot again in 2018.

Buehler joins two other House representatives who’ve announced likely runs for statewide office in the week since the legislative session ended. Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, said she was considering running for secretary of state. Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, announced he plans to run for treasurer.

Candidates can’t officially declare a bid for office until Sept. 10. Anything before that is considered a potential run and serves as notice to donors of their interest in a race.

Buehler asked readers of the email to donate money to his coffers as a show of support.

“I’ve kept my word to be an independent voice and to cross party lines to get things done,” Buehler said. “And I’m doing my best to put Bend and Oregon ahead of the narrow labels and rigid partisanship that too often define politics today.”

Buehler showed in his 2014 win over Democratic candidate Craig Wilhelm he was a prodigious fundraiser, raking in more than any other legislative candidate during vast stretches of the campaign.

By the end of election season, Buehler raised over $740,000 and spent more than that, which was about three times the amount raised and spent by Wilhelm.

Buehler started off his push for campaign cash last week by putting $10,000 into his campaign account, the only reported money in the account.

By declaring early, Buehler, Hoyle and Read effectively serve notice to prominent donors of their interest in higher office, said Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University. If the candidates receive support and money, it often solidifies a run.

“They’re hoping to begin to lock up some of the major donors early,” Moore said. “This is a time-honored strategy. If you get that money, then your opponents can’t.”

Buehler’s decision has big implications for Democrats, who would want to win Bend’s swing House district for their only seat east of the Cascades. Democrats held a 35-25 lead over Republicans in the House this year, one seat shy of the supermajority required to raise taxes.

If Buehler vacates the seat, Bend will see its second consecutive legislative race for an open seat that promises to be long and contentious. In House District 54, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2,000. However, a large and growing number of nonaffiliated voters and Independent Party members means major-party candidates can win election if they appeal to centrist voters, as Buehler did in 2014.

House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, said he supported Buehler and said he was confident Republicans would find another candidate if the race for Buehler’s House district was open in 2016.

Buehler spent his first session voting with the moderate wing of the House Republican caucus. He opposed several key Democratic victories such as the low-carbon fuel standard, paid sick leave and automatic voter registration — a priority pushed by Brown. He also voted against near-universal background checks for gun purchases.

His main achievement of the session came when Brown signed his proposal to make birth control essentially over-the-counter in Oregon, a law that starting early next year will allow women to receive birth control straight from a pharmacy without needing to see a doctor for up to three years. Insurance companies must still cover birth control under the new law.

— Reporter: 406-589-4347,