State Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) reported checks last Friday from a couple of bold-faced names in his effort to unseat incumbent Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.

Although the race is non-partisan, the GOP has its eye on picking up its first-statewide elected position since former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Pendleton) lost to challenger Jeff Merkley (D-Portland) in 2008.

Starr is in the middle of a four-year Senate term and thus has a no-risk shot at Avakian, who is coming off a big loss to now-U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Beaverton) in the November, 2011 special Democratic primary election to replace former U.S. Rep. David Wu.

In recent days, Stimson Lumber wrote Starr a $25,000 check and Portland property magnate Melvin "Pete" Mark gave him $1,000. Starr now has $43,000 on hand.

Avakian, who officially launched his re-election campaign last week, currently has $25,000 on hand, nearly half of which—$12,000—he transferred from money left over in his Congressional fundraising committee.