Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer could face off with State Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, who on Thursday officially announced his plan to run for the Republican Party's nomination for governor in the May primary.
Chavez-DeRemer said she's met Buehler on numerous occasions and had "very cordial interaction."
"This is not about going after Knute Buehler, but Oregonians need a win," she said. "As an outsider with executive experience and as a small business owner, I know what it takes to lead. Leadership is not just a title; it is responsibility. It is about blood, sweat and tears, not photo-ops and talking points. Kate Brown has failed to lead. I have experience as an elected official, and for the last seven years I've led the fastest growing city in the state."
In talking with Buehler and other prospective GOP candidates, Chavez-DeRemer said she found out that "people here in Oregon and people across the country expect the pendulum to swing" in favor of Republican candidates statewide. She said she's spoken with people in both political and non-political backgrounds to gain the insight needed to decide whether to run for statewide office, and these conversations are continuing.
"You cannot forge ahead into this process without gaining a 3-D understanding of the entire political landscape ahead of you," she said.
Graduating with a degree in business from California State University-Fresno, Chavez-DeRemer and her husband are co-founders of a local anesthesia management firm. In addition to her service on the Happy Valley City Council, she is on the board of directors for the Oregon League of Minority Voters, the League of Oregon Cities and Portland State University's Institute of Metropolitan Studies.
She was recognized as a "2017 Rising Star" at this year's statewide Republican Dorchester Conference, where she was asked to speak on the lack of leadership in Oregon, and last month visited the National Committee in Washington D.C., where she saw that Republicans are excited about the potential of shaking things up in Oregon.
"People are gaining a sense that Oregon is not as bright blue as out of state-backed special interests want people to believe," she said. "There hasn't been the excitement and energy needed in the past to defeat the union-Democrat machine, but that is all about to change."
As a citizen mayor, she has often advocated at the Legislature, on behalf of her city and for other mayors from across the state. She felt the momentum building as she engaged with Oregonians across the state through newspaper op-eds and through social media.
Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon, was first elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2014, as the the Pamplin Media/EO Media Group Capital Bureau reported. In an official campaign announcement on Thursday, Buehler said that Oregon "needs change — and I'm ready to lead it."
He said he intended to pursue public pension reform, "restore fiscal sanity to Oregon's budget," and work to boost the state's economy by emphasizing job training and holding back on "excessive, job-killing" regulations.
Buehler's political action committee has collected more than $97,000 in campaign donations this year and spent about $106,890, as of Thursday morning, according to state campaign finance records.
Buehler grew up in Roseburg and attended Oregon State University. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and earned a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University.
To run his campaign, Buehler has hired political strategist Rebecca Tweed, who was statewide campaign coordinator for the "No on Measure 97" coalition. The coalition's campaign helped to defeat the $6.1 billion corporate sales tax measure in 2016.
The Republican mayor opened a Lori Chavez-DeRemer for Governor PAC in June to raise money for a potential run but has not officially declared. So far, she has raised more than $11,000. She spent about $8,000 July 31 to hire Moore Information, a GOP polling firm, according to campaign finance records. She said that Moore Information was conducting a poll to see if there was a path forward for her winning the seat.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, also has stopped short of officially announcing her candidacy, but has raised about $782,582 in campaign donations in 2017 as of Thursday morning, according to state campaign finance records.
Buehler unsuccessfully ran against Brown in 2012 when she was seeking reelection to her post as Secretary of State.
Earlier this year, the state's government ethics commission found Buehler failed to report $12,500 in payments he received in 2013 for sitting on the board of St. Charles Health System on an annual financial disclosure form that legislators must file.
The Democratic Party of Oregon filed the ethics complaint raising the issue; the complaint included other claims that were dismissed.
Buehler attributed the issue to a clerical error and called the ethics complaint "politically motivated."
Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon and former Secretary of State, said in a statement that Buehler "represents everything we are trying to change in state government."
"Governor Kate Brown beat him before and she will beat him again," Atkins said. "...Despite his claims of moderation and 'going down the middle,' his actions and votes show he has the interests of a wealthy businessman and is aligned with the core conservatives of the Republican party."
Dennis Richardson, the Oregon Secretary of State and 2014 GOP candidate for governor, said Buehler "would make a fine governor."
"I'm excited to see who else will be entering the race," Richardson said.
Asked whether he would throw his own hat in the ring, Richardson said he would "make no promises about the future."
"...My focus is on being the best secretary of state I can be, and that's where my attention is at this time," he said.
Claire Withycombe and Paris Achen of the Capital Bureau, a Pamplin Media Group/EO Media partnership, contributed to this story.