SALEM — Chris Telfer, a former Republican state senator and accountant from Bend, told The Bulletin on Thursday she plans to run for treasurer as a newly registered member of the Independent Party of Oregon.
Telfer said she would focus on an anticipated difficulties in state’s next budget from rising Medicaid costs and other potential shortfalls.
She said her run as an Independent is an attempt to return the state to middle and “to try to keep the politics” out of the state treasury.
“In 2017, we’re looking at about a $3 billion crisis at the state level,” Telfer said. “I’ve been encouraged by people because of the skill I have (is) the skill set that’s needed to be able to see this through.
“The other two potential candidates just don’t have that skill set,” she said. “I just made this decision Monday.”
Telfer, an Oregon Lottery commissioner, describes herself as a social liberal and fiscal conservative.
She ran and lost to Treasurer Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, in the 2010 race to replace former Treasurer Ben Westlund, of Bend, who died in office.
Telfer was elected to the Senate in 2008 and served one term before she was unseated in a primary election by Bend Republican Tim Knopp, who is still a senator.
Candidates can’t officially declare until Sept. 10, and until then are only announcing their intention to run. Telfer joins Rep. Tobias Read, a Democrat from Beaverton, and Jeff Gudman, a Republican city councilor from Lake Oswego, who have stated they plan to run for the office.
While Wheeler will have served only six years by the time his term is up, term limits prevent him from running for treasurer again in 2016. He endorsed Read’s candidacy in July.
“Tobias Read has been a champion for making the economy work for all Oregonians,” Wheeler said in a statement sent by Read’s campaign July 30. “He’s been one of the ‘go-to’ legislators when it comes to policy on the economy, innovation and job creation.”
Read helped shepherd Wheeler’s landmark policy last session that will offer a statewide retirement account to most Oregon workers by July 1, 2017.
Telfer said that although she didn’t support that concept, her focus if elected would be on making sure the law is cost effective for employees in the system.
“I’ve been around state government long enough to know that state government doesn’t necessary do things more cost effectively or efficiently than the market,” Telfer said. “I’m opposed to it. People have that option and it’s not difficult.”
Read was an active legislator in the session that adjourned in July. He filed a bill late last session that would have suspended the personal income tax rebate, also known as a kicker, that state economists announced Wednesday will give Oregonians a median $124 next year.
Read’s concept would have diverted the money to the state’s public schools and a savings account.
The kicker is a longtime bane for Democratic lawmakers, who say the nation’s only income tax rebate system has forced the state to send much-needed money to taxpayers at times when heading into difficult budget years.
“I’m sponsoring a bill that will use a portion of this revenue to bolster K-12 and higher education, and to set some money aside in the reserve fund,” Read said at the time. “I hope all of my colleagues are willing to join me to make these investments in Oregon’s future.”
Read also helped create a law that will offer some recent high school graduates waivers for community college tuition starting during the 2016-17 school year.
Read has gotten out to a commanding start in raising campaign cash. He had nearly $70,000 from his 2014 re-election campaign and now reports $113,000 in his account.
Gudman is reporting about $6,500 in his campaign account. While the leaders of the Independent Party of Oregon have advocated for limits on campaign contributions, Telfer said she plans to raise money to run an effective campaign. She will set up an account in the coming days.
If elected, Telfer would be the first treasurer who wasn’t a Republican or Democrat since the office became partisan in 1851.
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,