Nike co-founder and chairman emeritus Phil Knight breathed life into state Rep. Knute Buehler's nascent campaign for governor with a $500,000 contribution today.
Buehler (R-Bend) will likely face incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. She has raised $918,000 this year. Her biggest check so far is $75,000 from the Laborer's Political League of Washington, D.C.
Knight's contribution, first reported by The Oregonian, is the largest political check he's written. Knight's check may embolden other donors to support Buehler, who faces an uphill battle given Brown's incumbency and Democrats voter registration advantage.
Impressive as Knight's check is, it is not, however, the largest contribution to a candidate in Oregon history, nor is it the largest contribution an individual donor has made. Oregon's one of a handful of states that doesn't limit contributions, so people write big checks.
In the 2010 governor's race, the state's most expensive ever, the Republican Governors Association wrote a single check of $1.5 million to GOP candidate Chris Dudley. The RGA also wrote Dudley a $500,000 check in that election. His opponent, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who narrowly won the race, collected two checks of $500,000 each from the Democratic Governors Association that year.
Other wealthy individuals have written bigger checks in Oregon elections.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote a $1.25 million check in support of Measure 90, which would have initiated open primaries, in 2014 and former Enron trader John Arnold wrote two $1 million checks in support of open primaries, as well. (Despite their support, the measure got crushed.) Longtime GOP donor Loren Parks also wrote a $500,000 check to the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance in 2008.