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Ore. gov. candidates race to acquire cash

By JULIA SILVERMAN and BRAD CAIN, Associated Press Writers

June 15, 2006

SALEM -- Newly filed campaign finance reports suggest that Oregon's 2006 governor's race could be the most expensive competition for the state's top job in the state's history.

The candidates raised and spent more than $6 million in the Oregon primary. Since then Republican candidate Ron Saxton has raised more than $250,000, outpacing incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who recorded contributions of about $144,000 since the May 16 election.

In 2002, by contrast, Kulongoski and opponent Kevin Mannix had raised a combined total of about $140,000 in the three weeks after the primary.

Fundraising bases for the two candidates have already begun to emerge. Kulongoski's biggest check since the primary was $50,000 from the Oregon Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, which sat out the Democratic primary race but has since endorsed Kulongoski.

Saxton's support base, by contrast, is concentrated in the business community, with particular depth in two sectors: the timber industry and real estate and development firms, including a $50,000 contribution from Seneca Timber Co.

Traditional Republican donors are also digging deep for Saxton -- McMinnville-based Evergreen Aviation donated $15,000 after his primary win, and Rod Wendt, CEO of Klamath Falls-based Jeld-Wen window and door-maker giant, gave $25,000.

Lobbyists, too, have begun to place their bets, especially after holding back during what was widely seen as a no-picking-the-winner Republican primary. The day after Saxton's victory, for example, Mike McCallum of the powerful Oregon Restaurant Association donated $250 to his campaign.

Felix Schein, Saxton's campaign manager, said they are estimating that the campaign will wind up raising between $4 million and $6 million.

"I don't think this is a winnable race with $2 or $3 million, for either candidate," he said.

Anna Richter-Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Kulongoski campaign, said that $140,000 of Saxton's contributions since the beginning of May have come from the timber industry. She called the percentage "pretty telling."

"Looking at each of the candidates' largest supporters tells you all you need to know about what each of them stands for," she said.

Schein shot back, saying "the governor has done all he can to take credit for a growing economy, and now he is bashing us for accepting contributions from the backbone of Oregon's economy -- it is hypocritical."

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