SALEM — With one month to go until Election Day, new campaign finance reports tell the lopsided money story in the odd race for the 54th House District.

One candidate is swimming in cash, while the other two spend campaign funds on lawyers to defend themselves. The seat, which includes most of Bend, is being vacated by Knute Buehler, the Republican candidate for governor.

With Democrats holding a 6,000-voter registration advantage over Republicans, the district was once seen as key to Democrats’ plan to flip a seat and gain a supermajority in the House that would allow them to pass tax measures without Republican help.

Now, Republican Cheri Helt is the only one of three candidates actively campaigning for the seat and far outdistancing her opponents in fundraising.

Helt has raised $484,000 and spent just under $322,500. She has just over $134,000 in the bank.

Helt’s biggest expenditures include $92,000 to G Squared LLC, a campaign consulting firm in Boise, Idaho, and just over $42,000 to Lori Hardwick Fundraising of Portland. Helt has also spent just over $34,000 with FP1 Digital LLC, of Washington, D.C., for online efforts, and $26,000 on polling with GS Strategy Group, also in Boise.

Helt’s contributions include $50,000 from the Oregon Business and Industry Candidate PAC, $27,500 from the Republican-oriented Action PAC, and $25,000 from the Oregon Realtors PAC.

Though Helt’s fundraising is about half of what Buehler raised in 2016, it is far outpacing her two opponents.

The Democratic nominee, Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, saw party leaders withdraw their support after Boddie won the May primary over allegations he was involved in sexual harassment. Boddie denies the claims.

Boddie has raised a total of $18 since mid-July and has spent $2,483 on the service of the Bend law firm of Schmid Malone Buchanan. But Boddie has said on social media posts that he intends to stay in the race. Overall, Boddie has raised just over $62,000 — including money raised in 2017 and in-kind donations. He’s spent just over $22,000 and has just over $40,000 cash on hand.

The troubled candidacy of Amanda La Bell of the Working Families Party has a new issue to deal with, according to records from the Secretary of State.

La Bell was tapped this summer as a surrogate for Democrats and their allies who dropped Boddie. She quickly raised nearly $10,500, including a $10,000 contribution from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 of Tigard.

But La Bell’s effort quickly imploded over reports she falsely reported she graduated from Valdosta State University in Georgia on her Voters’ Pamphlet statement. That issue is now being investigated by the Oregon Department of Justice. La Bell suspended her campaign — but too late to be removed from the ballot.

The Oregon Department of Justice, as well as authorities in Missouri, are also looking into allegations that La Bell mishandled contributions to her nonprofit diaper bank, The Rebecca Foundation. La Bell, who is serving as her own campaign treasurer, spent $3,500 last week for the legal services of the Bend law firm of Ward Grover & Ash.

Erick Ward, La Bell’s attorney on the election-related issues, said his client was in discussions with the UFCW about the contribution. “I don’t believe that any decisions have been made on that issue,” Ward said. “However, all parties are aware of it, and my client has been completely transparent.”

According to the Secretary of State, La Bell has raised just under $10,500 and spent just under $3,650, leaving a cash balance of just over $6,800.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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