Local | Politics

House Republican Primary Offers Rare Choice For Second District Voters

OPB | May 1, 2014 3:50 p.m. | Updated: May 9, 2014 9:49 a.m.

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Republican voters in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District have more than one name to choose from in this month’s primary election, for the first time in eight years. Incumbent Greg Walden is running for his ninth term in Congress. Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum hopes to unseat him.

Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum (left) is challenging incumbent Greg Walden (right)  in the Republican Primary for Oregon's 2nd Congressional District.

Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum (left) is challenging incumbent Greg Walden (right)  in the Republican Primary for Oregon's 2nd Congressional District.

David Nogueras / OPB

The latest filings from the Federal Election Commission show Walden holds a huge advantage in fundraising. He’s raised more than $2 million. Linthicum has raised just over $18,000.

Over last few months, Linthicum has been crisscrossing the state in an effort to get his message out to voters.

In addition to appearances on talk radio, and meetings with newspaper editorial boards, he’s also attending events like this Central Oregon Patriots of Crook County meeting in Prineville. The group identifies itself with the Tea Party movement.

Near the door, there’s table covered with bumper stickers and business cards that read “Dennis Linthicum - Constitutional Conservative.” The candidate launches into his stump speech, telling a story about the reaction he got when he handed that card to a man in Grants Pass.

“He turns to me and asks, ‘Are you a Tea Party wacko?’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in adherence to the Constitution. I believe that will naturally limit the size and scope of government and that will result in fiscal responsibility.’ He said to me, with the shake of his hand, ‘You’ve got my vote.’ “

Linthicum is a software engineer who has worked as an independent computer consultant. He was elected to the Klamath County Commission four years ago. He’s running on a message that seems to resonate with this crowd - namely, that the Constitution was written in order to create a federal government with limited powers. He says individual liberty was the goal, but the country has lost its way.

“The federal government has gorged itself on power and is wielding that power indiscriminately,” Linthicum says. “And you see it in the EPA, you see it in the clean water. You see it in clean air. You see it in land use policies. All of those issues (are) where Greg Walden is falling short for the 2nd District.”

Linthicum faults Walden’s voting record for what he sees as a lack of principle. On the issue of raising the nation’s debt ceiling, for example, Linthicum points out that Walden has voted both for and against it.

When asked about those votes, Walden had this to say: “Well, remember, Mr. Linthicum believes that Social Security is unconstitutional, that Medicare is unconstitutional and that we should go back to a place and time where the legislatures picked our United States Senators, and that seems to be a rather extreme view.”

Walden says he’s also a strong advocate of the Constitution, but he doesn’t think this race is about constitutional theory.

“For me, it’s: How do you keep focused on how do you grow jobs in the economy so that people have a better standard of living? How do you improve the use of our natural resources so we don’t have these catastrophic fires and actually produce jobs in our mills again, and again get back to a stronger economy? How do you help people solve problems?”

Last month at VFW Post 1643 in Bend, Walden heard from veterans. Many said they were having trouble navigating the federal bureaucracy. Walden says over the years, his staff has helped about 15,000 people in the 2nd District with problems that range from denied medical claims to land use issues.

“You learn a lot about the veterans’ problems. You learn a lot about each watershed. You learn a lot of about healthcare in Enterprise versus Ashland,” Walden says. “In fact, the voters have invested in you to go and get that knowledge and then learn the system in Washington and try and use that system to their advantage and the country’s advantage.”

When Republicans took control of the House, Walden assumed a position within the party leadership. Last year, the House passed a bill he authored that would make more water available for the city of Prineville by freeing up water behind Bowman Dam. Walden says that legislation, which is now pending in the Senate, would promote economic growth at no cost to taxpayers.

But Dennis Linthicum says the fact that Walden authored a bill that applies only to his district is problematic.

“Because if we do it in Oregon, somebody will do it in Tennessee and somebody will do it in Texas and Montana and West Virginia,” Linthicum says. “And as soon as we get that myopic world view we’ve split our nation into all of these subcategories and it’s very difficult to get a unified national interest.”

The winner of the Republican race will face one of three candidates in the general election. Democrat Aelea Christofferson is a Bend business woman and former Cover Oregon board member. She resigned her seat in March, five days after the Government Accountability Office announced it would investigate the troubled exchange. Her campaign has raised about $18,000.

Also running as Democrats are Frank Vulliet, a retired attorney and U.S. Navy Officer and Barney Spera, a former Mayor and Councilman of Millbrae, California. Neither Vulliet nor Spera have reported raising any money in the race.

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