Oregon's lone Republican to serve at the federal level announced Monday that he's had enough of Washington, D.C.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, whose home base is Hood River but whose district sprawls across Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon, said on Monday that he planned to retire rather than seek re-election in 2020. The news was first reported by Politico. That makes Walden the latest in a string of Republicans who are heading for the exit rather than face re-election in a year when President Donald Trump will be at the top of the ballot.
Walden's district has been a reliably conservative one, though his 17-point margin of victory in 2018 was his narrowest in years, and there have been signs that the area's major population centers, including Bend and Hood River, are trending Democratic.
Formerly the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden was forced to surrender his gavel when Democrats took control of the chamber in 2018. He says he "will not seek election to any other office," though Republicans in Oregon have hoped for years that he might mount a run for governor and break the decades-long Democratic hold on that office.
Under Trump, Walden has walked a careful line, sometimes siding with the president—he was a point man in legislation intended to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which earned him town halls across Oregon full of angry constituents—but also working across the aisle to earmark funding for rural counties no longer able to rely on a logging economy and to bring awareness and funding to the opiod crisis.
Over the years, Walden also emerged as a savvy political thinker, chairing the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014 and 2016, both of which were bumper years for Congressional Republicans.
The right to replace him could touch off a heated primary in the Second Congressional District, where there hasn't been an open Republican seat for more than 20 years. Former Oregon House Rep. Knute Buehler, the Bend physician who ran for governor in 2018 and built a statewide profile in the process before losing to Democratic incumbent Kate Brown, could look at the seat.