On one of the busiest football weekends of the year, it's fitting that state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) just disclosed a gubernatorial campaign contribution from former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Bledsoe, a graduate of Washington State University, was the top pick in the 1993 NFL draft, going to the New England Patriots. In an accomplished career that lasted 14 years and included three Pro Bowl berths, Bledsoe may be best known as the quarterback whose 2001 injury cleared the way for an unknown bench-warmer named Tom Brady. After replacing Bledsoe, Brady that year led the Patriots to the first of four Super Bowl victories.
But shed no tears for Bledsoe. After finishing up a career that paid him $80 million with the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys, he retired to Bend and began making wine in Washington's Walla Walla Valley, where he grew up.
On Nov. 21, Buehler, who's seeking the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, next year, reported an in-kind campaign contribution from Bledsoe—$3,528 worth of wine for a campaign event. (Bledsoe twice donated to Buehler's legislative campaigns in the past, $500 each time.)
Buehler has now raised $1.95 million this year and has $1.54 million on hand. He will face opposition in the Republican primary from Bend businessman Sam Carpenter and Mehama real estate agent Bruce Cuff, as well as from Keizer resident Keenan Bohach and Portlander David Stauffer.
But Buehler's real race is likely to be a general election rematch against Brown, to whom he lost the 2012 race for Secretary of State. Brown has raised $1.89 million this year—although none of it from former NFL players—and has $1.96 million on hand.