(AP) – Former state Sen. Cliff Bentz has won the Republican primary for state’s vast 2nd Congressional District covering eastern Oregon.
The GOP 2nd District race was one of the most closely-watched of Tuesday’s primary as the incumbent, Rep. Greg Walden, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, is not running for a 12th term.
Bentz beat out 2018 Republican Oregon gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler of Bend and former state legislator Jason Atkinson.
Four Democrats sought their party’s nomination and that contest is still too close to call.
Alex Spenser, a writer from Klamath Falls had a lead of less than 1,000 votes late Tuesday night over Nik Heuertz, a small business owner from Central Point.
Bentz will have the advantage in the November election in the predominantly Republican part of the state.
“The primary message tonight is that I’m running for this office to make our state a better place,” Bentz said. “Greg Walden has been a very close friend for a very long time and it’s going to be great to work with him and try the impossible job of trying to follow in his footsteps.”
Cliff BentzWalden on Tuesday night issued a statement, congratulating Benz.
“As a rancher from Eastern Oregon, I know that he understands the needs and challenges of our rural communities better than most,” Walden said. “Beyond the ranch, his experience as a lawyer as well as a state legislator showcase his ability to navigate policy and politics.”
Buehler, a Bend surgeon, announced he was running for Congress in December, saying “we need less politics and more conservative leadership in Congress.”
He declined comment following the first wave of results from the Secretary of State’s office, but he issue a tweet conceding to Bentz.
“I called to congratulate @CliffBentz on his victory. Cliff is a good man and a strong legislator. His deep roots in CD2 will serve us all well in Congress,” Buehler said. “I strongly endorse Cliff and encourage Republicans to rally behind him. Congrats to Cliff, his family and his supporters”
I called to congratulate @CliffBentz on his victory. Cliff is a good man and a strong legislator. His deep roots in CD2 will serve us all well in Congress. I strongly endorse Cliff and encourage Republicans to rally behind him. Congrats to Cliff, his family and his supporters pic.twitter.com/DJw9OKWwML
— @Knutebuehler (@KnuteBuehler) May 20, 2020
Buehler served two terms representing District 54 in the Oregon House, winning elections in 2014 and 2016. He lost his gubernatorial bid to Democrat Kate Brown in 2018.
He was also the Republican nominee for Secretary of State in 2012, also losing to Brown.