GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon's only Republican in Congress and chairman of the GOP committee to elect House members, has gotten a primary challenge from the right.
Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum announced Wednesday he will seek the Republican nomination for the 2nd District, which covers Eastern Oregon and the Rogue Valley.
Linthicum told The Associated Press that Walden's split with the House leadership last week to vote against ending the government shutdown was a key point in his decision to go ahead with a planned challenge.
Walden's vote was widely interpreted as an attempt to blunt any challenges from the right.
"I did not want him to continue pretending he is not (an establishment Republican), when he is," Linthicum said from his office in Klamath Falls.
"The situation we face as Americans can't be dealt with just by increasing the tax burden on future generations," he added. "We really need, I think, to have this discussion on a federal level. That discussion hasn't been taking place under Walden's leadership."
A former Congressional aide and veteran of both chambers in the Oregon Legislature, Walden easily won the open 2nd District seat in 1998 and has been re-elected by wide margins in the heavily Republican district. He is from Hood River, where he owned a string of small radio stations, which he sold in 2007.
"I work hard every day to get results for Oregonians, and I look forward to earning their trust again next year," he said in a statement in response to Linthicum's announcement. "I remain focused on reducing the size and cost of government and growing Oregon's economy to create jobs in the woods, on our farms, and in the high tech sector."
The Conservative Club for Growth has encouraged a challenge of Walden, putting him at the top of its "Primary My Congressman" list that seeks conservatives to challenge Republicans the group says are too moderate.
Linthicum describes himself as a constitutional conservative and was elected to the Klamath County Commission in 2010 with strong tea party support. He moved from Newport Beach, Calif., to Klamath County in 1995, and was a software consultant to door and window manufacturer Jeld-Wen before his election. He lives with his family on a small cattle ranch in the community of Beatty.
Oregon Republican Party Chairman Art Robinson, a tea party favorite who lost two bids for Congress, said he had to remain neutral.
"Even though Greg Walden, of course, is an outstanding congressman in Washington, I can't take sides in this," he said.