Cliff Bentz, Ontario attorney, won the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday, May 19. (Cliff Bentz photo)

Cliff Bentz, an Ontario attorney and former state legislator, on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District, fighting a thick field of candidates and the upending impact of the global pandemic.

 Results from the Oregon Elections Division showed Bentz took 31% of the vote in the sprawling, heavily Republican district. He is running to take the seat being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.

He defeated a field of 10 candidates, including Knute Buehler, a Bend doctor who two years ago lost the governor’s race to Kate Brown. He will face Alex Spenser, a poet from Klamath Falls who won the Democratic nomination.

The campaign took an unexpected turn with the impact of the coronavirus, which ended the traditional means of seeking votes by holding campaign events and speaking to an endless stream of civic groups. The 2nd Congressional District is particularly challenging because it covers eastern Oregon and portions of southern Oregon.

“Being elected to represent the Republicans of CD2 in the 2020 race for Congress is one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” Bentz said in a statement.

“We must unite around the values we hold in common, such as life, the Second Amendment, private property, local control, and the reelection of President Trump,” Bentz said. “Thankfully we have strong grassroots support all across this huge district and this is the irreplaceable foundation upon which we will build our next victory.”

Bentz, 68, grew up on a ranch in the Drewsey area, attended Regis High School, a Catholic school in Stayton. He graduated from Eastern Oregon University and then Lewis and Clark Law School.

In 1977, he joined what is now the Ontario law firm of Yturri Rose, where he remains a senior partner.

In 2008, he was appointed state representative and 10 years later moved to the Oregon State Senate. He resigned earlier this year to pursue the Congressional seat.