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Ben Westlund

Westlund

Ben Westlund

Ben Westlund, 60, the Oregon state treasurer who died today of cancer, had a cancer outbreak years ago. Part of his response to it was to bear down on developing a serious statewide Oregon medical care program. He was a state senator, and with another senator, Alan Bates, they toured statewide, developed it over a period of time and got it through the Oregon Legislature – an almost astonishing achievement.

Westlund was among the most immediately impressive legislators we spotted when moving to Oregon some years ago, on a range of fronts. He stood out for party, for one thing – he was a Republican, an independent and a Democrat in the legislature. He ran for governor as an independent, and was elected in 2008 as treasurer as a Democrat.

His subject area knowledge was strong enough that you could call him wonkish, but for his manner and approach – energetic, direct and even charismatic. He was a natural to run for a higher office, had he lived longer.

Westlund’s switch to the Democratic legislative caucus prompted a witty comeback from the Republican Senate Leader, Ted Ferrioli, to the effect of: I hope the Democrats get all the joy from him that we did – a reference to how he wasn’t always among the most loyal of troops. But you can read the comment in more than one way. As it stands, Oregon got a good deal from Westlund during the too-short time he was here.

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