State Sen. Cliff Bentz (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – Local attorney Cliff Bentz will resign from the Oregon Senate to focus on his congressional campaign.

Bentz said his resignation from the Senate will be effective Jan. 2.

He revealed last month he intends to run for the congressional seat held by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. Walden is retiring.

The 2nd Congressional District is one of the largest in the nation and covers about two-thirds of the state, including eastern Oregon.

“I am running for Greg Walden’s position and it will take every minute of my time that I can devote to it if I have any chance of winning,” said Bentz.

So far only one other candidate, Central Point resident Jason Atkinson, has declared to also seek Walden’s seat. Atkinson is a former Oregon lawmaker who served in the House and the Senate.

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Earlier this month Bentz said he planned to resign from his Senate seat if he won the primary in May. That goal, he said, changed as he evaluated the amount of money he needed to raise, the make-up of the 2nd Congressional and the short time to the May primary.

“That literally means making hundreds of calls a week and sending out letters to people and explaining why people should support me and contribute to my campaign. That is just the way it is,” said Bentz.

Information from the state Elections Division last week showed Bentz has $26,031 in his political campaign committee.

Bentz said that while he is a well-known politician in Malheur County, his profile is not as high in other parts of the congressional district. He said he needs to spend time in places like Bend and Medford to deliver his message.

“If I wanted to just play this out as a lark, I would just stay in the Senate and keep doing my Senate work. But I would never do that. I am not filling my name in as a joke. I am putting my name in because I think I can win,” said Bentz.

Bentz said the timing of his resignation is also important so a successor can move into his position before the February session of the Oregon Legislature kicks off.

Any registered voter can step forward to seek Bentz’s position. In this case the Republican party will nominate three to five candidates and then the commissioners from the nine counties represented in the Senate district will appoint a successor.

With Bentz seeking federal office, state Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, declared he wants to replace Bentz in the Senate. Harney County Commissioner Mark Owens, a Republican, announced recently he will run for election to the House seat now held by Findley.

News tip? Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.

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