Former Sen. Cliff Bentz of Ontario won the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in Oregon on Tuesday.
Former Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend called Bentz just before 9:30 p.m. to concede the race. Former Sen. Jason Atkinson of Central Point was running third. Jimmy Crumpacker, a recent transplant to Deschutes County who spent over $600,000 and was endorsed by anti-abortion and gun rights groups, was running fourth. None of the other seven candidates on the Republican ballot had more than 10% of the vote.
Alex Spenser of Klamath Falls and Nick Heurtz of Central Point were ahead in the field of five Democrats vying for the seat.
In Grant County, Bentz received 55% of the votes, followed by Buehler with 20% and Crumpacker with 15%.
Bentz thanked the voters of the district, who he said looked past the large amounts of advertising by Buehler and Crumpacker to give him the win.
“I think people in this congressional district are smart, and they study the candidates before they vote,” Bentz said. “Jimmy is a nice guy, but he doesn’t really live in the district. He’s a Portland guy with a ski cabin in Bend. Good on him for trying, but he has to know the district before running for Congress.
“Knute ran as a moderate two years ago when he was running for governor, then tried to run as a conservative for Congress. People remember. Knute is a good physician, but politically, he just doesn’t fit this district.”
The race drew 11 Republicans to replace Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, who announced last fall that he would retire after 22 years in Congress. The district is the only one of five in Oregon represented in Congress by a Republican. It covers all of Eastern and Central Oregon, along with a large slice of the southwestern part of the state.
Bentz announced early for the race, with much of the geography of his state senate district overlapping Walden’s.
Buehler entered the race, bringing his statewide name recognition and fundraising ability into the contest. The physician served two terms in the state House sandwiched between unsuccessful bids for secretary of state in 2012 and governor in 2018.
Buehler praised Bentz, and said he would support his campaign to win the seat in November.
“Cliff is a good man and a strong legislator,” Buehler said in a statement. “His deep roots in CD2 will serve us all well in Congress.”
A late entry that stirred the campaign was Crumpacker, an asset manager, who registered to vote in Deschutes County on Nov. 20, three weeks after Walden announced he would retire, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The district has proved reliably Republican for the past two decades, with Walden sometimes receiving more than 70% of the vote during his re-election campaigns. His closest race came in 2018, when Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebonne held him to 56% of the vote.
Spenser began the race as campaign manager for Democrat Raz Mason of The Dalles, who eventually withdrew her candidacy. Spenser then filed to run for the office herself. Heurtz described himself as an independent businessman.