By Pat Caldwell
ONTARIO – State Rep. Cliff Bentz will soon reach out to county commissioners and Republican Party officials in his district to seek an appointment to the Oregon Senate.
The opportunity developed with word that state Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, would step down soon to accept a seat on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
The regional council creates and sustains programs that balance environmental and energy needs. Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington are represented on the council. The council consists of eight members appointed by the governors of the four states.
Ferrioli, elected to the Senate in 1996, has served nearly five terms and represents a district that covers Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Malheur, Wheeler and portions of Clackamas, Deschutes, Lake, Marion and Wasco counties.
Bentz, a member of the House for 10 years, said he hopes he is selected to fill Ferrioli’s seat.
“I think I can do a more effective job in the Senate, and that is because the Senate provides a more focused opportunity for people with experience and who know how the process works,” said Bentz.
An Ontario attorney, Bentz played an influential role during the last legislative session as the main architect of the state’s massive transportation plan. He also cleared the way for a state funding for a rail shipping facility for Malheur County.
While Bentz is a front-runner for Ferrioli’s position, he knows there are no guarantees.
“I have no lock on the job,” said Bentz.
That’s because any registered voter can step forward to seek Ferrioli’s position. In this instance, the Republican party will nominate three to five candidates. County commissioners in each county will have a say on who to appoint.
Since Ferrioli’s district covers several counties, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson will convene commissioners and name a chair to run the meeting and decide who to appoint to the vacancy.
“You have to discuss with the county courts why you are the preferred choice. And that means having individual conversations with each person,” said Bentz.
Bentz said he believes shifting to the Senate would be an asset for voters in eastern Oregon.
“My job, at the end of the day, is to work for the people of eastern Oregon and I can be more efficient in the Senate,” said Bentz.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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