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Former Republican state senator received more votes in 2018 than Democrat Kate Brown in Eastern Oregon.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Former state Sen. Knute Buehler said Tuesday, Dec. 10, that he would run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.

Former Republican state and gubernatorial candidate Sen. Knute Buehler said last week that he will run for the Oregon 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Republican Greg Walden.

Buehler lost to Democrat Kate Brown in the 2018 Oregon governor's race.

On Tuesday, he sent a combative email to supporters, criticizing Brown, "Portland liberals" and "D.C. elites."PMG FILE PHOTO - U.S. Rep. Greg Walden will retire after serving nearly two decades in Congress.

"The retirement of Oregon's only Republican Congressman, Greg Walden, leaves open a very important seat — a seat we must keep in Republican hands — but a seat that Kate Brown and Portland liberals very much want to take away from us," Buehler wrote in the email. "Emboldened by their wins last cycle, the arrogance of Kate Brown and the liberal extremists has only grown. Too often, the voices of those of us in Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon are disrespected or ignored — left behind and left out by Portland liberals and D.C. elites."

The 2nd Congressional District covers most of Eastern Oregon and parts of Southern Oregon. It traditionally has been a conservative part of the state.

When Buehler ran for governor, he received far more votes than Democrat Kate Brown in the region. In the November general election, Buehler received 187,247 votes in the 18 eastern and southern Oregon counties that make up the district, compared to just 120,216 for Brown. In fact, Brown only won Hood River County. She lost populous Deschutes County, where Buehler lives, by 9,307 votes.

Since his defeat, Buehler has created a state political action committee that has more than $118,000 in the bank. Its most recent expenditure was $1,219 to Calcagno Media, a video production firm founded by Michael Calcagno, who worked for the late Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, the last Republican to win statewide office.PMG FILE PHOTO - Knute Buehler at the Portland Tribune during the 2018 race for Oregon governor.

Shift to the right

Despite the new rhetoric, Buehler was known in the Legislature as a moderate, and he ran for governor from the middle, not from the right.

Speaking to the Tribune in 2018, Buehler often used the word "independent" to describe himself. He said he rejected the "narrow partisan labels" that have increasingly polarized the nation. In the Oregon House, Buehler voted both with and against his party.

His gubernatorial campaign included centrist proposals such as more state spending for education; a pledge to protect Oregonians from federal cuts to the Medicaid program; and support for the reproductive rights of women. He proposed creating 4,000 emergency shelter beds statewide to get homeless residents off the streets. He backed some — though not all — of the Democrats' bills to reduce illegal gun violence, including a ban on bump stocks and raising the legal age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. In 2017, he voted for Brown's legislation to confiscate firearms from domestic abusers.

He took a more conservative approach to other issues, including a cap-and-trade bill to reduce carbon production in Oregon and major reform of the state retirement system known as PERS.

"Oregon is hungry for an independent-minded leader who is able to close a lot of these divides," he told the Pamplin Media Group editorial board in 2018. He said he wanted to be "a governor for everyone no matter who you are, where you live, who you love or even how you are registered to vote."

Dana Haynes contributed to this article.

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