SALEM — The state capital had a double dose of politics over the weekend, with the Republicans’ much-anticipated Dorchester Conference at the convention center and the unanticipated final adjournment of the Legislature on Saturday at the Capitol. From Friday night to Sunday morning, lawmakers shuttled back and forth between the two. A recap of some items of interest from both:
No bridge ban bill
Among the dozens of bills that died a quiet death in legislative committees Saturday was House Bill 4029, legislation that would have banned a bridge over the Deschutes River near the southern boundary of Bend. The bill was stalled in the Joint Ways & Means Committee when the gavels fell in the House and Senate and all unfinished business died. The bridge site sits near the intersection of the districts of Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, and Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend. Both are departing the Legislature, leaving their successors to decide if they want to take up the issue in the 2019 session.
Handicapping the governor’s race
Motivational speaker and retired Navy officer Greg Wooldridge won the straw poll of Dorchester Conference attendees of who could win the GOP nomination for governor. Raw vote totals were not released, but it was announced that of the 147 votes cast, Wooldridge was the choice of 40 percent, Buehler 29 percent and Bend businessman Sam Carpenter 20 percent.
“Today’s straw poll is emblematic of why I jumped into this race, and it signals the enthusiasm our campaign brings to the Republican primary,” Wooldridge said. “Watch out, Kate Brown.”
Buehler’s campaign pointed to its lead in outreach, organization, major endorsements and fundraising. Carpenter pointed to an unscientific poll by Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, showing he is the top choice among Twitter followers of Post, a conservative radio personality-turned-lawmaker. Carpenter also released numbers from his internal Triton Polling survey of likely Republican voters that showed a plurality remain undecided.
Early return to fundraising
One clear winner in the Legislature’s decision to leave eight days earlier than required: Buehler. House rules bar candidate fundraising during legislative sessions. Gov. Kate Brown was able to raise funds throughout the 27 days Buehler could not. Buehler put out a fundraising appeal Monday, saying Brown had raised $200,000 during the session — and asking for catch-up donations.
Buehler’s campaign released an updated list of endorsements over the weekend, showing he had support of 11 members of the Legislature. New to the list is House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, who was once seen as a possible primary opponent for Buehler. Still unannounced on endorsements in the race as of Saturday: Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River.
Buehler, Whisnant goodbyes
Though they will stay in office through the end of the year, both Buehler and Whisnant gave their goodbye speeches to the House chamber Saturday, the last time they will attend a voting session of the Legislature. In his speech, Buehler said he hoped to be working with the legislators next year, an allusion to his run for governor. His parting advice: “Please don’t fall into the easy place of partisan bomb throwing, even though it may feel good when you do it.” In an emotional and humorous speech, Whisnant thanked his constituents, colleagues, legislative staff and saluted his wife, Josie, who also serves as his aide. “All I have accomplished here, she is an equal partner,” Whisnant said.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will hold town halls in Deschutes and Jefferson counties Friday. He’ll be at Pilot Butte Middle School, 1501 NE Neff Road in Bend, at 5:30 p.m. Earlier, he will have a 9 a.m. town hall in Madras at the Madras Performing Arts Center, 412 SE Buff St.
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