Oregon state Rep. Brian Clem let his money do a lot of the talking Monday when he signaled his interest in the governor's race by reporting a $500,000 campaign loan from his mother-in-law.
I called Clem after seeing the report, and the Salem Democrat told me that he is launching an exploratory campaign for governor. He said he plans to hire staff and travel around the state, and he sounds like he is committed to the race except for one caveat.
Clem said he probably would not run if former Gov. John Kitzhaber decides that he wants to try to reclaim his old office. "It is very close to contingent, if not contingent" on whether Kitzhaber runs, Clem said of his own candidacy.
Kitzhaber has said he would decide whether to run again sometime after the end of the legislative session. Clem said he expected to make an announcement about his own candidacy by Labor Day.
Are Oregonians prepared to pass the torch to a new generation? We'll see.
Clem is young, energetic and smart. But nobody outside his district (and probably even in his district) knows his name. He's never campaigned at this level before that I'm aware of, so I suspect he'll have some serious polishing to do.
Clem would certainly add some needed new blood into this level of Oregon politics. I like seeing some fresh faces begin to make the leap. The Democratic Primary for Governor has the potential to be fascinating. I'm very curious now who else will stick a toe in the water, following Clem's lead.
The conventional wisdom that I've heard on Rep. Clem is that he's relatively moderate and has built good relationships on both sides of the political aisle. He should have good support in the agriculture-political world, which will surely help him in rural Oregon.
An additional peek into where Clem might go as Governor also comes from a Mary Pitman Kitch piece in today's O. There's a revelation there worth noting.