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Ted Wheeler

And with the speed of superglue – hastened by the 5 p.m. candidate filing deadline – a whole section of Oregon politics for the months ahead is snapping into place.

The reason, as noted here earlier, is the combination of a candidate filing deadline today, plus the death on Sunday of state Treasurer Ben Westlund. He was probably one of the most-liked people in Salem, but the law didn’t allow for time to pause and grieve, only time to decide and file.

The first key action today was Governor Ted Kulongoski’s appointment to treasurer for the period from here until after a new treasurer is elected. That went (in what felt like a small but not large surprise) to Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler. Wheeler hadn’t been much involved in politics on the state level up to now, but he has gotten good headlines at Multnomah since he took office there in January 2007, leading a commission which had been a trouble spot for some years, and smoothing out and broadening its activities. He was already running for re-election to the county office this year, and had drawn only slight opposition. The appointment is likely to get positive media attention.

It is professionally defensible. From Wheeler’s own statement on the appointment: “I imagine in some corners of the state, people will ask: ‘Who is Ted Wheeler?’ The short answer is that I currently serve as the chief executive officer of the largest county in Oregon, that I was a senior manager of an investment firm in my private sector career and that I have graduate degrees in government and business. In short, I’ve got a good resume for this job. Frankly, I’ve thought for some time that I might run for Treasurer at some point in the future. I never expected it to be this soon.”

He is also running for it, and as an incumbent is likely to be well-positioned. His ties to the Portland business community are likely to generate a large campaign treasury, and he probably will be able to look to labor for substantial support too.

Not of that is stopping other candidates from entering, two of them state senators: Democrat Rick Metsger of Welches and Republican Chris Telfer of Bend. And there’s former state Treasurer Jim Hill, who can point to his past experience there. Al three can be considered serious candidates, but our guess is that Wheeler will enter as front-runner.

Wheeler’s departure at Mulnomah leaves open his seat at the chair, and another commissioner, Jeff Cogen, and a former state senator, Margaret Carter, are in for that.

More on candidate filings once the deadline is past, later today.

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