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Westlund's Death Creates Open Treasurer's Race

Westlund Flowers
Flowers and a note on the sidewalk outside the Oregon Treasurer's office this morning

The death of Oregon state Treasurer Ben Westlund from lung cancer Sunday morning came at an especially awkward time.

Because of a filing deadline, major party candidates who want to replace Westlund have until just 5 PM Tuesday afternoon to enter the race.

Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports on the scramble to fill Westlund's shoes.

Republican candidate for governor Allen Alley, who ran against Westlund for treasurer in 2008, said through a spokesman that he won't enter the treasurer's race. Meanwhile, the Governor has ordered flags to hang at half-staff from Tuesday until Sunday.

Oregon's Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski will appoint a replacement for Ben Westlund. Whoever that is will serve until this November's election when voters will choose who will serve the remaining two years on Westlund's term.

As it happens, the deadline for major-party candidates to file for the May primary is Tuesday evening. That's set off a lot of talk about potential candidates.

Oregon Republican Party spokesman Greg Leo called Westlund a great public servant and said Oregon Republicans would mourn his passing. But Leo also said he expects more than one Republican to enter the race before the filing deadline.

Greg Leo: “It doesn't give people much time to consider the possibility of the race, but I do know that a number of senior people are looking at it who would make excellent candidates for this office.”

A spokesperson for the Oregon Democratic Party did not return phone calls, but at least one Democrat - retiring state senator Rick Metsger - told several newspapers that he's running for the office.

I'm Chris Lehman in Salem.

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