State Sen. Cliff Bentz announced Tuesday he will run for Congress in 2020. (The Enterprise/File).
ONTARIO – State Sen. Cliff Bentz, an Ontario attorney, said Tuesday he intends to run for Congress in 2020, hoping to fill incumbent Greg Walden’s slot to represent the 2nd Congressional District.
Walden, who represented the district for more than 20 years, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election.
“With the encouragement of many I’ve decided to run,” said Bentz Tuesday afternoon.
The primary would be next May. Knute Buehler of Bend, a former state representative from Bend, said he was considering running for Walden’s seat too. He was the Republican nominee for governor last year, losing to Kate Brown.
“The challenges in Washington, D.C., are great. However, based upon my years of working as a rancher, farmer, attorney, and as member of the Republican party successfully passing legislation in a Legislature controlled by Democrats, I feel confident that I can adequately represent the people of the 2nd Congressional District of Oregon," said Bentz.
Since his appointment to the Oregon House in 2008, Bentz has extended his political influence as he worked to sponsor key legislation. In 2018, Bentz replaced former Sen. Ted Ferrioli, who resigned the Senate seat to take a position with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
Bentz, 67, remains one of the most powerful politicians in Oregon and holds key positions on several legislative committees, including as vice chair of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. He is also a member of the committee on environment and natural resources and committees on judiciary and transportation.
Bentz made headlines in June when he, along with 10 Republican state senators, left the Capitol to prevent a vote on a controversial cap-and-trade bill designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The move by the Republican senators stripped Democrats in the Senate of a quorum of 20 to vote on the legislation.
Bentz is an attorney with the Ontario firm Yturri Rose, which he joined in 1977 and where he became a partner in 1981. He served on the Ontario School Board from 2005 until 2008, when he became a state representative.
Information from state Elections Division on Tuesday showed that Bentz has just over $27,000 in his political campaign committee.
“I look forward to meeting with Oregon voters over the few months between now and Oregon’s Primary Election," said Bentz.
State Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said Tuesday that Bentz’s decision was “news to him.”
“I think of all the people that could be out there, I can’t think of anyone better than Cliff. I think he’d be an incredible candidate,” said Findley.
Findley said he is not considering a move to fill Bentz’s Senate seat if the local lawmaker decides to resign.
“I’ve just not thought about it,” said Findley.
Don Hodge, Malheur County commissioner, said Bentz’s intimate knowledge of rural issues and a lifetime spent in Malheur County are crucial.
“I think he would be good for the whole area. He knows what is going on in these counties,” said Hodge.
Walden is also a veteran politician at the federal level. First elected to the House in 1998, Walden’s politics over the years evolved from a hardline Republican stance to a more nuanced and methodical method during the Trump Administration. Walden is the only Republican member of Oregon’s congressional delegation. Walden’s 2nd Congressional District includes most of central and eastern Oregon and portions of Josephine County and the Grants Pass in Jackson County.
Walden was the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 2014 to 2016.