Oregon Right to Life today announced that it will spend $250,000 on a "no on Knute" campaign aimed at defeating former state Rep. Knute Buehler in the GOP primary in Oregon's Second Congressional District.

"Over the years, Knute Buehler has stated repeatedly that he is supportive of abortion rights," said Lois Anderson, Oregon Right to Life executive director, said at a press conference today. "Buehler's defense of Oregon's reprehensible lack of basic protective laws precludes his candidacy to represent Congressional District 2. In aligning himself with Oregon's legal position on abortion, Knute has rendered himself also pro-abortion."

Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon who represented Bend in the Oregon House for two terms, ran for governor against incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, in 2018.

As part of his effort to woo moderates in that race, Buehler, a Republican, repeatedly said he was pro-choice. The state's two leading abortion-rights groups, NARAL and Planned Parenthood, disagreed with that characterization. (Brown won re-election, 50 percent to 44 percent.)

In December 2019, Buehler jumped into the race to succeed 11-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who is retiring.

Walden's district is overwhelmingly Republican in voter registration (Republicans outnumber Democrats 191,000 to 146,000), so whoever wins the GOP is highly likely to win the general election and become the only Republican member of the state's congressional delegation. That opportunity also attracted two other former GOP lawmakers, former state Sens. Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point) and Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) and a well-funded newcomer, Jimmy Crumpacker, as well as several other candidates.

Having run twice statewide (he also lost to Brown in the 2012 race for secretary of state), Buehler might have had a leg up on the competition. But he'd also fallen afoul of ORTL, long a king-maker in GOP primaries and one of largest and most active conservative political action committees.

On March 2, Buehler went on Twitter to try to mollify his critics on the issue of abortion.

But that olive branch didn't satisfy ORTL, which not only announced today it would go after Buehler but came to his hometown of Bend to make that announcement.

In a response to ORTL's decision to attack him, Buehler struck a concilatory tone.

"When Planned Parenthood pushed extreme anti-life legislation, I voted with the pro-life community to oppose taxpayer funded abortions for undocumented immigrants and forcing religious affiliated organizations to provide abortion services," he said in a statement. In Congress, I will oppose federal funding of abortions, I will vote to ban late term abortions and I will defend religious liberties. Being pro-choice doesn't mean you are pro-abortion and my conservative voting record reflects that."

"I will always work to find common ground with the pro-life community to make abortion as rare as possible in Oregon and America," Buehler added.

One thing ORTL did not do: tell the tens of thousands of people on its email list who the group's preferred candidate is. The group's spokeswoman, Liberty Pike, says ORTL will issue its endorsement in April around the time ballots drop.