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Politics & Government

Here's what to expect in Oregon's Congressional District 2 primary

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Kaylee Domzalski
/
OPB
The High Desert in Eastern Oregon

Oregon’s only Republican representative, Cliff Bentz, faces challengers from the left and right during the upcoming May primary election. Here’s what to expect for the Congressional District 2 race.

JPR’s Roman Battaglia sat down with Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University.

Roman Battaglia: Thank you, Jim for being here with me today and talking about the District 2 primary.

Jim Moore: Yeah, it's a fun primary.

RB: So, first off, why don't you tell me a little bit about some of the issues that voters care about in District 2, which is primarily rural, Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon. What are some of the things that voters care about?

JM: Yeah, the primary things that would have to do with the national government are going to be issues of regulations, certain amount of issues with freedoms, especially in this COVID era – and being out of the COVID era. And then especially in the second congressional district. It's a natural resource economy. It's important to know looking at the 2nd district – well, it's big and it looks rural that, by far, the majority of people live in urban areas. They live in the Rogue Valley. They live in Pendleton. They live in the cities that are in there. And so rural issues are important, but they're important more because of the natural resource economies and that kind of thing rather than people actually living out on the ranch or something like that.

RB: So it's important; just to remember that Medford, Bend, these other, larger cities people live in compared to the actual rural parts. That's why District 2 is so big compared to all of the other representative districts and it sounds like that some of the big things that voters are thinking about in this district are a lot of those natural resources stuff. So timber, the environment, those sorts of aspects. Water, I'm sure, is probably a big thing that people keep on their minds because of all these issues with drought.

JM: Yeah, absolutely. And it's interesting because basically all the second congressional district is in a drought right now of some kind. But clearly water issues are much bigger in the Klamath Basin than they are, for instance, up in the Wallowas. So there's those regional kinds of things. There's one thing that does unite them – is whether or not there's any natural resource industry that can replace timber, which has been in trouble for 40 years. So that's the big question.

RB: So this year Cliff Bentz, is up for re-election in District 2, and he has a couple of Republican challengers facing off against him in the primary. But from what I can tell it seems like Bentz has a pretty good chance of winning the primary and the general election. Would you say that rings true?

JM: Yes, that's absolutely true. His two opponents, as of the last official reporting at the end of March, have not raised any money at all – that they had to report to the federal government. Cliff Bentz has raised $641,000 dollars. Had $424,000 dollars on hand. So it doesn't look like his two opponents are really running credible campaigns.

RB: Yeah, that's certainly true. A lot of money compared to his opponents. Do you think that there's any chance the Democratic opponents in the opposing primary have any chance of taking him down in the general election at this point?

JM: No. And that's partly because of the registration numbers. There's a big Republican advantage in the district, but partly, also, they have not done any fundraising at all yet. Yetter, as of once, again, the end of March had raised only $10,000 dollars and Prine was not even listed on the FEC site. So that tells me that they're also not running really credible campaigns. And you know, it's a big difference from two years ago when there was a strong Democrat out there who was running and trying to make a real difference this time. The Democrats just seem to have said, okay. We'll just let it stay in Republican hands.

RB: Well, Jim Moore, Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today about District 2 and what we're kind of expecting in the primary this year.

JM: Hey, you're welcome.

This interview has been edited for length & clarity.

Editor's note: While Bend was a part of Oregon's 2nd congressional district in the past, the city was moved to the 5th District after redistricting in 2021. The District 5 representative will represent Bend following November's election.