Yesterday, Oregonians gathered in the Capitol to remember the late Gov. Vic Atiyeh, the last Republican to win the governor's office in Oregon.
Atiyeh died on July 20 at the age of 91. He served as governor from 1979 to 1987, guiding Oregon through a crushing recession.
Coincidentally, two of the stronger candidates the GOP has put forward to try to break the party's long dry spell surfaced briefly this week.
Ron Saxton, who as a Portland lawyer ran in the 2002 primary and won the GOP nomination in 2006, losing to then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski 51 percent to 43 percent. This week, Saxton finally spent the last pennies in his campaign account, writing a check for $1,454.61 in support of Measure 90, which would do away with Oregon's partisan primaries.
The 2010 Republican candidate, former Portland Trail Blazer Chris Dudley, ran a stronger race than Saxton, losing to John Kitzhaber, 49.3 percent to 47.8 percent, a margin of just over 20,000 votes.
Rather than sticking around for a second shot at Kitzhaber, Dudley in 2012 moved back to San Diego where he grew up. But today, Dudley resurfaced, activating his campaign email list in support of Bend legislative candidate Knute Buehler.
Right now, the same special interests that attacked me are hard at-work against Knute – with dishonest, desperate attacks. As you already know, the Bend Bulletin called the attacks “appalling” and “garbage.”
Help Knute put this garbage where it belongs and donate today. Your contribution is an investment in a good person, a great leader and Oregon’s future.
Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon and former Oregon State baseball player, lost a race for Oregon secretary of state in 2012 to incumbent Kate Brown. Like Dudley, he ran for state wide office without cutting his teeth in a lower office. (Saxton served on the Portland School Board, but never ran for other local offices or the Legislature).
In seeking the House seat vacated by State Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend), Buehler is following the path that elevated successful Republican candidates such as Atiyeh—who served in the Legislature for nearly 20 years—and former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and current Second District U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to higher office.
The potential threat of Buehler's entering the Legislature and emerging as a candidate for governor in 2018 is one reason why Democrats will throw big resources behind Democrat Craig Wilhelm, Buehler's opponent this November.