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Powell Butte representative confirms rumors he could lead powerful U.S. Attorney office in Oregon

PAMPLIN FILE PHOTO - State Rep. Mike McLane, right, talks to Prineville resident Jeff Papke at Crook County Library in 2014. The Powell Butte lawmaker leads Republicans in the state House, and his ties to Congressman Greg Walden could help in a bid for U.S. Attorney.The Trump administration is considering naming the state's House Republican leader, Mike McLane, as the Oregon's top federal prosecutor, the Portland Tribune has learned.

Rep. McLane, of Powell Butte, acknowledged the news through a spokesman. "I can confirm for you that Representative McLane is being considered for the position of U.S. Attorney for Oregon," wrote Preston Mann, the House Republicans' communications director, in an email.

Mann also relayed McLane's responses to follow-up questions about the consideration.

"I have had conversations about the job," said McLane, according to Mann's email. But the lamwker declined to speculate whether other candidates are under consideration as well.

Buzz about the powerful office in Oregon has been on the upswing as President Donald Trump starts making progress on appointments, and since November, McLane has been considered a leading candidate.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for Oregon is an arm of the federal Department of Justice, with a staff of more than 100 employees, including more than 40 criminal prosecutors. The office goes after drug traffickers, scam artists, and oversees other high-profile cases, such as the influence-peddling probe of former Gov. John Kitzhaber and the prosecution of the Bundy-led occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Since 2009, lawyers appointed by Democrats have led the office— though the current US Attorney, Billy Williams, has registered as an unaffiliated voter.

But now, conservative lawyers who've long been out of power again have a shot. After such a long time out of power, the pool of Republican candidates with significant experience is smaller than it used to be, Republican lawyers agree.

Most of the speculation about candidates has revolved around friends and acquaintances of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. That's because the job of proposing names for a Republican president to consider for U.S Attorney traditionally falls to the ranking Republican in the Oregon congressional delegation.

A lawmaker since 2010, McLane is a former clerk to Oregon Supreme Court Justice Mick Gillette. With a background in business law, McLane has worked for two prominent local law firms, Stoel Rives and Miller Nash.

While in law school, he served as a law clerk to the U.S. Attorney's office, helping with drug cases there. He's since handled nine federal cases in Oregon, according to the federal court records website PACER. He's also a lieutenant colonel and JAG lawyer in the Oregon Air National Guard.

McLane recently formed a small Bend-based law firm with former state lawmaker and congressional candidate Jason Conger as well as state Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville. Conger's name has also come up in speculation for the federal job.

McLane has enjoyed good relations with Walden. The two share a fiscally conservative philosophy and a direct, sometimes blunt style of communication.

Another name that has circulated as potentially interested in the job is Klamath County District Attorney Rob Patridge, chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Patridge is expected to soon step down from the OLCC and is undergoing pre-employment screening for another job, according to The Oregonian. But Patridge's involvement in regulating legalized marijuana may disqualify him from consideration by Trump, whose administration has expressed opposition to legalized recreational marijuana.

Still another potential candidate is Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds, whose family is politically active and friendly with Walden. A former federal court law clerk, Bounds served a stint in Washington, D.C., as chief of staff at the federal DOJ's Office of Legal Policy, and from 2008 to 2009 served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush for justice and immigration policy, assigned to the White House Domestic Policy Council. In Oregon, he's handled environmental, fraud and immigration cases.

But some have speculated Bounds is more likely to be considered for a federal judgeship.

A Walden spokesman declined to comment on the U.S. Attorney selection process.

It's unclear when a final decision could be made, or whether McLane would be willing to step down from his current office before the 2017 Legislature shuts down.

"I will address additional questions if I am appointed," McLane said.

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