Oregon State Senator Cliff Bentz To Step Down, Run for Walden’s US House Seat

Oregon Second District Congressman Greg Walden’s October decision not to run for re-election this fall is having a ripple effect in Eastern Oregon. State Senator Cliff Bentz, whose 30th District includes the eastern portion of Wasco County, is resigning on January 2 to run for Walden’s seat in the U.S. House. A story in the Baker City Herald on Friday reports that Republican precinct committee officials plan to meet January 4 at the Grant County Airport in John Day to nominate at least three candidates to replace Bentz in the Oregon Senate. Elected commissioners from each of the 11 counties in District 30 will then meet on January 6 to choose from among those three. So far, the paper reported, two people have applied, one of them being former Wasco County Commissioner and current The Dalles City Council member Rod Runyon. The other is Lynn Findley of Vale, a state representative whose 60th District includes southeastern Wasco County and the towns of Antelope and Shaniko. Today is the deadline to submit a letter of interest. 

State law requires the precinct committee members to nominate three, four or five candidates. If fewer than three people apply, then Oregon Governor Kate Brown gets to appoint Bentz’s successor. Whoever is chosen will fill out the remainder of Betz’s term, which runs through 2022.  

When the county commissioners meet on January 6, not all votes will be equal. That’s because Oregon law provides for weighted votes based on county population. For every 1,000 people or greater fraction of 1,000 people in a county, the commissioners from that county get one vote. Deschutes County will have the most votes with 17, followed closely y Wasco, and Malheur counties, both with 16 votes. Jefferson County has 15 votes, Baker County has 12, Grant and Harney counties each have five and Jefferson and Lake counties are stuck with a single vote.

Whoever wins the appointment will have one of the most secure seats in the Oregon Senate. District 30 has not elected a Democrat in at least 36 years.