Former state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) is quickly finding that negotiating the conflicting pressures on Republican candidates in Oregon is going to be tricky.
Today, less than 24 hours after Buehler announced he will seek the 2020 GOP nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) who is retiring, Oregon Right to Life, the state's leading anti-abortion group, slammed him.
"Mr. Buehler spent much of last year's gubernatorial campaign telling voters he is '100% pro-choice,'" Lois Anderson, ORTL's executive director, said in a statement. "We have and will continue to oppose his candidacy because of his views."
ORTL has long been a powerhouse in Oregon Republican politics, regularly ranking as one of the largest special-interest funders of candidates and wielding a long list of supporters.
"Oregonians in Congressional District 2 have demonstrated they are pro-life and want a pro-life representative," Anderson added. "ORTL PAC will do everything in our power to ensure their new member in Congress is also pro-life."
Buehler faced a different challenge last year when he ran against incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. In that race, he worked at a considerable disadvantage because Democrats out number Republicans in the state by about 10 percentage points. He needed pro-choice credentials to appeal to moderates.
The calculus is different in the second district, which includes most of rural Oregon and the cities of Bend, Medford, Hood River and Ashland, and where Republicans enjoy an eight percentage point registration advantage.
Buehler's campaign manage, Jennifer Stephens, says Buehler can win without ORTL.
"Knute has won the second congressional district four times, including two Republican primary elections," Stephens said in a statement, referring to Buehler's showing in the 2012 secretary of state's race and the 2018 governor's race. "It will be Republican voters, not special-interest groups or the liberal Portland media, who will choose the strongest candidate to take-on Nancy Pelosi and defend our values, rights and jobs from the long arm of big government."