WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The only Republican member of the U.S. Congress from Oregon is retiring, setting off a mad scramble to replace him that may be largely resolved in a Tuesday primary election.
In Oregon’s second congressional district, 11 Republicans and five Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination to succeed Representative Greg Walden, a moderate Republican who has served the area since 1999.
The sprawling region of eastern and southern Oregon is heavily Republican, so whoever wins the party’s primary has a good chance of becoming the area’s next member of Congress.
Oregon has been a vote-by-mail state for two decades. Due to lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, much of the political battle has been fought on social media and the airwaves.
Three Republican candidates are former state legislators: Knute Buehler, Cliff Bentz and Jason Atkinson. Buehler has been the top fundraiser, collecting $1.3 million and spending nearly $1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Outside groups have weighed in with advertising for and against Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon who won the 2nd district when he ran for governor two years ago, although he lost the governor’s race.
Buehler’s support for abortion rights as well as his past criticism of Republican President Donald Trump has earned him enemies. The state’s largest anti-abortion group, Oregon Right to Life, attacked Buehler’s stance and endorsed another well-funded contender instead, investment adviser Jimmy Crumpacker.
The political action committee of the conservative Club for Growth bought an ad highlighting Buehler’s past criticisms of Trump.
This spring, Buehler wrote on Twitter: “Being pro-choice doesn’t mean I’m pro-abortion and my conservative voting record consistently supports that.”
Crumpacker declares himself to be “Pro-Trump, Pro-Life and Pro-Gun” on his website. Last month the National Republican Congressional Committee placed the 41-year-old Crumpacker in its “Young Guns” program to promote candidates.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Leslie Adler)