A well-known name and face in Central Oregon political circles for over a decade is making her second bid for the same statewide office, this time as an Independent.
And yes, the capital “I” is intentional. Former state senator — and now, former Republican — Chris Telfer revealed Thursday she recently registered as a voter with the Independent Party of Oregon, and will seek its nomination in the spring to run for state treasurer.
The Bend CPA and former Bend city councilor ran for state treasurer in 2010, urged to do so in the wake of fellow Bend resident and Treasurer Ben Westlund’s death while in office. But she lost that fall to Democrat and current incumbent Ted Wheeler, who can’t seek re-election again due to term limits.
Telfer left City Hall and was elected in 2008 to the Oregon Senate but served just one term, as she was ousted in a stunning 2012 GOP primary loss to Tim Knopp, who went on to win the seat that fall.
It was only this month that the Independent Party, with 109,000 members, crossed the 5 percent threshold to become Oregon’s official third major political party, meaning a state-funded primary in May.
Though the formal filing period doesn’t begin until Sept. 10, Democratic state Rep. Tobias Read and Lake Oswego City Councilor Jeff Gudman, a Republican, also have taken steps to run, and Read has Wheeler’s endorsement — but only in the primary, Telfer noted.
Telfer told NewsChannel 21 “I approached them (Independent Party leaders), they did not approach me” to run for treasurer. She said she changed parties because she believes the Independents “have a platform with things that unify us as Oregonians — fiscally responsible but socially liberal.”
Though the Democrats have held a lock on statewide offices for years, Telfer said polls are showing a good level of support for a “third option.” And she said she feels the Oregon Democratic Party is going far too liberal/progressive for many Democrats’ liking, and that the Independents could bring the state to “a little more centrist” place.
“It’s not just a one-party state, it’s an extreme left of that left party,” she said. “And a lot of Democrats that I talk with are disenfranchised with it. They’re not really willing to give up the party yet, but I’d really like to see us get back to voting for the person and not the party.”
Telfer — whose current state role is on the Oregon Lottery Commission — exudes confidence that the other two mentioned candidates are “nowhere near as qualified” as she is to oversee the state’s finances. She noted that along with her job as an accountant, she’s a government finance instructor for OSU.
And she said that expertise is crucial heading into what could be a “perfect storm” of PERS, health care expenses that could mean a $3 billion state budget hit in 2017.
Having just switched parties to one many are unfamiliar with, Telfer said she actually believes the treasurer’s post should be a non-partisan one, anyway.
“Politics have no place in overseeing the state Treasury,” she said.