SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A handful of Oregon legislators hoping to keep their seats are facing challenges from members of their own parties.
The campaigns are kicking into high gear now as ballots begin to arrive in voters' mailboxes. The May 15 election won't determine which party controls the Legislature, but it will bring an end to some hard-fought battles within both parties.
One of the fiercest battles is playing out in Bend, where homebuilders lobbyist Tim Knopp, a Republican and former House majority leader, has challenged two-term GOP Sen. Chris Telfer. He says the Legislature hasn't done enough to boost the economy.
"There doesn't seem to be a focus in leadership in the Legislature from this district, and quite frankly a lot of others," Knopp said.
He faults Telfer for being a former Democrat, and says she's too willing to work with the other party.
For her part, Telfer points out that even beloved Republican Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat. She contends she's racked up a conservative voting record and, as a certified public accountant, brings an important expertise to the state budget process.
"I hate to see Republicans beat up on each other," Telfer said. "It's a total waste of...dollars that we could be using, frankly, to take a seat or two back in the Senate versus battling this out."
Half of Oregon's 30 Senate seats and all 60 House seats will be the ballot this November. With few other competitive races on the ballot to suck up time and money, both parties are focusing intensely on legislative races this year. They hope to take control of the House, where they're tied, and the Senate, where Democrats have a 16-14 majority.
Most of the Senate seats up for grabs this year are in districts that comfortably Democrats, and Republicans face long odds to take control of the upper chamber. A number of battlegrounds loom in the House once the primaries are settled, however.
Democratic Rep. Mike Schaufler of Happy Valley is fighting to keep his job after a challenge by fellow Democrat Jeff Reardon, a high school teacher. Schaufler infuriated some of his colleagues this year when he sided with Republicans on a key procedural vote, and his spirited advocacy for increased logging has frustrated the environmentalist wing of his party. Last year, he was stripped of his position as co-chair of a House committee after being accused of groping a woman at a union convention — an allegation he's denied.
Schaufler has shown significant success fundraising and has retained support from some of his colleagues and some key Democratic interests. He's stressed his independence as a strength.
"I analyze the facts, I make my decision, I go out and tell people what I'm going to do, and then I do it," he said earlier this month.
He also angered some Democrats and labor unions when he accepted money from Koch Industries, a company owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch that funds conservative causes. He later gave the money back, and told The Oregonian that he initially accepted it because Koch subsidiary Georgia-Pacific is an important Oregon employer.
"Working families can trust me to listen to them above the corporate lobbyists, and I think that that's what this is all about," Reardon said.
In the House, the political action committee that supports Democrats, FuturePAC, reports about $194,000 in the bank, according to campaign finance reports. That's a slight advantage over the Republicans' Promote Oregon Leadership PAC, which has about $123,000.
Senate Democrats are far outpacing Republicans, with $221,000 in the bank compared with $17,000 for the GOP committee.
The PAC money is controlled by party leaders and does not include money given directly to individual candidates.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.