Ben Westlund Passes Away

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Westlund-and-his-kids It is with sadness that I must report to you that Ben Westlund, Oregon's State Treasurer, passed away last night at 2:30 a.m.

In October, he announced that he was receiving treatment for lung cancer. It was a recurrence of the cancer that he beat back in 2003. Over the holidays, Ben contracted pneumonia and had been battling illness since.

He is survived by his wife, Libby, and their two children, B.J. and Taylor.

Westlund was first elected to the Oregon House in 1996 as a Republican. He immediately made an impression, serving as a freshman on the Ways & Means committee. In 2002, he was appointed to the Senate to fill a vacancy and won an election for a full term in 2004. He represented the area in and around Bend, Oregon.

In 2006, he made a run for Governor - as an independent candidate. Ultimately, he dropped out, citing a desire to win, rather than serve as a spoiler. In 2007, he became a Democrat and announced a run for state treasurer. In 2008, he won the race for treasurer, defeating Allen Alley.

Perhaps the best biography of Ben Westlund is found in a 2006 cover story at Willamette Week.

Rest in peace, Ben.

On the jump, a statement from his family and the office of the State Treasurer in its entirety.

Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund dies of cancer
Entrepreneur and political veteran leaves a legacy of public service to Oregon families

In life, there are those who take the road less followed. Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund’s was miles past where the pavement ends.

His path took him from Apple Valley, Calif; to the shores of Lake Oswego; to the painted hills of Eastern Oregon; to rural Deschutes County; and then to the statehouse, where he served as a legislator and as Treasurer.

In Central Oregon and then the Capitol, where Westlund spent much of the past 13 years since being first elected in 1996, he was known for his easygoing wit and his signature sign off: “Down the trail.”

Westlund’s journey ended too soon. He died early Sunday in Bend, when he lost his battle to cancer. He was 60.

The son of Long Beach oilman Bernard "Bud", and Dorothy Reynolds Westlund, was born Sept. 3, 1949, Spent first 16 years in Apple Valley, California where his father had a successful real estate development. Then his family returned to the Northwest with his two brothers. He graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., where he earned a degree in education and history.

He helped start a successful mining venture in Christmas Valley, and then a marketing company in Portland. In the 1980s he started ranching in Eastern Oregon and named his operation High Country Herefords, and a cattle genetics operation in Oklahoma called Taurus. His best-known and most economically successful prize-winning Hereford bull was named Reggie.

Westlund married his wife, Libby Bishop, a high school classmate and friend, in1987. After selling his registered Hereford herd in 1990 they settled on the Deschutes River in Tumalo, outside of Bend. They have two children; BJ, 21, and Taylor, 17. Ben dutifully called home every night at 8 p.m. during his years at the Capitol to say good night to his family.

A lifetime fan of baseball, specifically the Los Angeles Dodgers, Westlund also was part-owner in the 1990s of a minor league baseball team, the Bend Bandits. While it was fun to own a team, Ben recounted that the best part of the experience was traveling the state with his kids, watching their team play.

A friend convinced him to run for the legislature in 1996 and Westlund was elected to the Oregon Legislature House of Representatives. In 2003, he was appointed to the Senate and successfully won the seat in 2004. He quickly earned a reputation as a problem solver and as an advocate for Oregon families.

In his 12 years in the state Legislature, he was a co-chairman of the budget-drafting Joint Ways and Means Committee and championed legislation that created the State’s Rainy Day Fund, Public Safety Memorial Fund and the Oregon Cultural Trust. He was the chief legislative advocate for creating the Cascades Campus of Oregon State University in Central Oregon.

He survived an initial bout with lung cancer in 2005. A political moderate who started his career as a Republican, Westlund bucked his party and was the cosponsor of legislation to give marriage-like rights to same-sex couples. He staged a brief campaign for governor as an independent in 2006.

He fought for consumer protection and was the co-author of Oregon’s health system reforms in 2007, and was elected as Oregon’s 27th State Treasurer in 2008. He is the only state treasurer to be elected from east of the Cascades in recent memory.

As Treasurer, he gained national attention for his initiative to expand investment transparency and led a series of reforms to increase accountability and options in the Oregon 529 College Savings Plan. He was instrumental in securing a $20 million settlement in 2009 for families who are saving for their children’s futures.

He worked to the end and was he was a hands-on, creative and collaborative leader who sought to bring out the best in his staff. In the final quarter of 2009, the returns earned by the State Treasury investment division were in the top 1 percent of large public funds.

In his speeches, he frequently joked that while folks can learn lifelong lessons in kindergarten, you can learn a lot about being Treasurer from ranching. For instance, watch out for predators, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and watch where you step.

Westlund’s legacy will live on in Oregon, in the form of the cultural trust and public safety fund, which provides money to families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty. His legacy also will live on in the memories of friends and Oregonians whose lives he touched, and those who spoke with him, or were fortunate enough to meet him in his travels down almost every road – paved or not -- across the state he loved.

Down the trail, Ben.

Down the trail.

  • (Show?)

    So sad. Condolences to Ben's family, staff and friends.

    I'm so sorry to hear this.

  • (Show?)

    My heart is sunk. Ben truly loved Oregon. And through his legislative service grew to value the role that government has and can continue to play in making Oregon such a remarkable place.

  • Ashley Henry (unverified)

    Ben, you were the best. We loved you so much!

  • Bear Wilner-Nugent (unverified)

    What a huge loss for our state. Safe travels, Ben.

  • (Show?)

    i got to meet and talk with Ben informally a couple of times. the first was at a Drinking Liberally, at the Lucky Lab. for half-an-hour, he sat with a group of us, making us laugh and making us feel like we were all pals. including me, who had challenged the authenticity of his independent campaign for governor.

    shows what i knew about authentic.

    in August of 2008, i met him on the back of a bus in Denver. he was breathing hard because he'd had to run to catch the bus, not a good thing at that altitude for a guy with his health problems. but he wasn't someone to sit back and wait for the next bus. he wanted to serve Oregonians, and by golly, he did that to the end. i wish i'd had one more chance to see him, even if for a brief Howdy.

    but Ben reflected what i love about Oregon: this is like a small town, and most people are willing to treat you like a neighbor from down the street. that's how he treated me, and his kindness taught me a lesson about judging other people -- or at least keeping my mouth shut until i know better.

    Down the trail. great words to say goodbye to an Oregonian we will all miss. peace.

  • House Speaker Dave Hunt (unverified)

    Ben Westlund was an Oregonian through and through. His fierce independent spirit made him a success in life, in business, and in politics. He truly did not care if you were a Democrat or a Republican. He only wanted to know if you were willing to work to help Oregon.

    Ben was already an experienced and respected member of the Oregon House when I was first elected. In the years since, I've been privileged to work closely with Ben to create Oregon's Rainy Day Fund, expand K-12 school capital construction, maximize returns from the Common School Fund, strengthen our state's credit rating, stabilize the College Savings Plan, and just last month to expand public deposit options for state and local governments. I valued his wisdom, his commitment, his humor, and his great spirit.

    I know all the members of the Oregon House join me in offering our condolences and our prayers to his family. We will all miss Ben Westlund.

    Down the trail, Ben. We will see you down the trail.

    House Speaker Dave Hunt

  • steve Novick (unverified)

    I am stunned. i can't believe he's gone. I feel horrible that I hadn't talked to him recently. A warm, joyful, caring man.

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    The following statement has been released by Governor Kulongoski:

    Last night I lost a good friend and Oregonians lost a dedicated public servant. Ben Westlund loved life. He loved his wife and children. And he loved Oregon. Ben cared about the people of this state and worked tirelessly throughout his public service career to create hope, opportunity and build a better future for all Oregonians. Oregon has lost a leader, a friend and a member of our collective Oregon family, but his spirit and enthusiasm will continue to inspire the best in all of us.
  • Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (unverified)

    Ben Westlund served Oregon well as a legislator and as our State Treasurer. He was extremely dedicated to his work and to Oregon, and he will be missed. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.

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    Ben was a true statesman for Oregon. RIP.

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    You couldn't help but be charmed by Ben. Not that he had the same exploits per se, but his manner and salty tongue seem a lot like what folks said about Charlie Wilson. There's also that same ability to transcend narrow political categories and work with all kinds of folks. I know Stacey Dycus must be especially sad; she seemed to me to be much more than a trusted staffer in the Capitol, more like family.

    Down the trail to everyone's favorite "jizz pimp..."

  • Ross Day (unverified)

    I heard this news about 4 hours ago, and I am still in shock. I have always considered Ben a friend and a statesman. My heart sunk when I heard the news.

    This is a very sad day for our state. But I think that Ben would want us all to carry forward, doing our best (regardless of our party affiliation) for this great state, and not dwelling on his passing.

    Ben and his family will be in my thoughts and prayers. Many of us on both sides of the aisle will miss you...

  • Greg Macpherson (unverified)

    Ben Westlund was a great independent Oregonian who followed his own conscience in the tradition of Wayne Morse and Tom McCall. While Ben’s intelligence and powers of communication were impressive, it was his warmth and humanity I will remember most. He made everyone a friend and will be deeply missed.

  • Rep. Peter Buckley (unverified)

    This breaks my heart, and I know I'm not alone.

    Ben was one of the best and most remarkable people I have come across in Oregon politics. He is the only one I ever met who could leave a one word expletive on my cell phone and I would know exactly who it was. He had so much heart, so much passion for people and making things better.

    His family. his staff, his great friend Alan Bates and all who knew and loved this guy are in my thoughts right now.

    We were all better for knowing him. Oregon is a better place. And this breaks my heart.

  • Lee Beyer (unverified)

    Ben was a true friend and I will miss him and his prairie humor greatly. We spent a lot of time together during our joint service in the Legislature but the time I remember most is the year and half we worked together with a great group of Oregonians to create the Cultural Trust. Ben was at true optimist who only seen the golden road for Oregon. It's a great loss for his family and our state. See ya down the road old friend. -Lee Beyer

  • Rep Margaret Doherty (unverified)

    I am so glad that the last time I saw him in September I gave him a big hug. He was such a good man.

  • Christy Splitt (unverified)

    I am also saddened to hear about the passing of one of my favorite elected officials.

    When I moved to Oregon 7 years ago, I was a high school teacher. I happened to attend a panel on Oregon health care policy with then-Sen. Westlund and then- Rep. Bates. I asked a few questions from the audience and afterwards, Ben came up and asked me a few questions back. We talked for about a half hour. It was my intro to Oregon politics - this Republican from Deschutes County was advising me to get more involved, that it was the Oregon way, even telling me to check out the Bus Project. Six months later, I was out of the classroom and on the Bus. Six years later, here I am - working in the Legislature and loving it.

    So - thanks Ben, for that half hour in Bend, for exemplifying the blend of having fun and working hard necessary for success in the building, and for your service to our state. You will be missed.

  • Russell Sadler (unverified)

    Sympathies and thanks to Westlund's family for sharing him with us. Ben was an independent mind at a time when we need more of them not less. Like the passing of that other independent mind, Tom McCall, Westlund's premature death is Oregon's great loss. RIP Ben.

  • Sue Castner (unverified)

    God speed, Ben.

  • Sen. Chris Edwards (unverified)

    Ben, you were a remarkable Legislator, Treasurer and person. It is hard to imagine the Capitol without you. Thank you for your years of service to Oregon. You will be missed.

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    He was an usual public figure who put principles before partisan politics. I first realized how unusual he was when I gave a speech in Bend (the city he represented in the House and Senate) in the fall of 2001 about homelessness in Oregon. Then-Rep. Westlund showed up. Republicans don't often show up to hear about homelessness, sad to say, but there he was. He was interested and engaged even if he didn't agree with everything I had to say.

    My prayers tonight are with him, his wife and children.

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    My thoughts and prayers are with Ben's family. God bless, Ben. Oregon was a better place because of you and your service.

  • Larry Galizio (unverified)

    "To live in the hearts we leave is not to die." - Thomas Campbell (1777-1844).

    To those who had the good fortune to work with Ben and to get to know him, Mr. Campbell's words certainly ring true.

    Oregon's State Treasurer was a treasure for Oregon.

    Thank you for your public service, your sense of humor, and your kindness to our family. Down the trail buddy.

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    I am so sad and send sincere condolences to Ben's family. I just sent him a note on Facebook . . . and feel so bad that I haven't spoken with him in a while. Ben was a true open-minded public servant - a giant in that regard - who'd listen and engage and do the right thing even if that meant changing course. Oregon lost a great one.

  • Lupita Maurer (unverified)

    Our prayers are with Ben's family. We will miss him greatly.

  • Ms Chan (unverified)

    I had the pleasure of meeting Ben when he was running for Governor in 2006. He struck me as 100% genuine. From the comments above from those that knew him better, it sounds like my instincts were right. A sad loss for all Oregonians.

  • Laura Taylor (unverified)

    This is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with his family today. God bless you, Ben, and thank you for all of your work on behalf of all Oregonians. You have left us an amazing legacy and truly were an inspiration. I am honored to have known you.

    Laura Taylor NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon

  • Rep. Brent Barton (unverified)

    RIP Ben. I was blessed to call you friend and mentor. Your friendship made me a better person and public servant.

    My heart goes out to Ben's family and many friends. Oregon lost one of its great lights.

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    Ben was an incredibly charming, funny and big-hearted guy. He made Oregon politics more interesting and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with Ben's family.

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    To paraphrase TC over at PK, there goes the last McCallesque former GOPer.

    I had the honor of gathering signitures for his abortive run at the goobernatorship.

    He will be missed!

  • Rep. Val Hoyle (unverified)

    A fellow baseball fan, he was a true role model and an invaluable resource for me while learning my way through Oregon politics. He was an incredibly hard worker, a loyal friend and the ultimate public servant - always keeping Oregon's best interest at the forefront of his work. I will miss his kind heart, no-nonsense approach to problem solving and great sense of humor My thoughts are with his family who were so important to him.

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    The state of Oregon lost a great man today. Watching Ben on the trail in 2008, when he was running for treasurer, I was able to see person who truly cared about this state, and was working daily to make it a better place to live. His service will never be forgotten. My condolences to the Westlund family. Rest in peace Mr. Westlund.

  • Barry Lince (unverified)

    I worked as Ben's Portland Field Director in his Independent run for Governor. He was an honest, thoughtful and dedicated statesmen. As a Republican/Independent/Democrat he never truly fit in any of those limited labels we all use in political discourse. Rest in Peace Ben you will be missed.........

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    I'm very sad tonight, just learning of this. From the moment he met me, he won my heart and ultimately I grew to admire him greatly. He was a wonderful person. RIP Uncle Bennie!

  • anon (unverified)

    Anybody know what the procedure is for replacing the Tresuer? Would that be the governor`s decision, and if so, has there been any hints on who he might be consdering? Or a special election? And is there sombody responsbile for managing the office day-to-day in the meantime?

  • LT (unverified)

    Anon, the time will come for that.

    But right now, as broken hearted as many of us are, it is not the time to think about that.

    Whoever replaces Ben in the state treasurer's office should have relevant experience, an open heart, willingness to carry on his good ideas, an ability to be outspoken without being snide, and wise enough to remember that what one learns cattle ranching (watch where you step, sunlight is the best disinfectant) applies to politics.

  • Rhett Lawrence (unverified)

    Very sad news indeed. One of my favorite legislators and just an all-around great guy. We're all so much better because of your service, Ben, and I'll miss the hell out of you. Rest in peace, big guy.

  • Dan (unverified)

    Ben was an amazing public servant and an even more amazing human being. Oregon misses you dear friend.

  • Christine Lewis (unverified)

    Ben's dedication, ingenuity, and wit were remarkable, and he made Oregon a better place to live. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

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    Thank you Libby and family for sharing Ben with the state of Oregon. Ben Westland is forever a part of Oregon history. RIP.

  • Phil Philiben (unverified)

    Sad day. Such a warm friendly person. Even when we disagreed he wasn't disagreeable. Oregon needs more Ben Westlunds.

  • richard (unverified)


    Are you for real? You scold that "right now is not the time to think about that."

    Then you do it yourself with advise on who should replace him?

    I guess you meant to say, "do as I say not as I do"?

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)

    A terrible loss for the whole state. My deepest condolences to his family.

  • Dan E. (unverified)

    My fondest memories of Ben were during the 1999 session, where our offices were tucked back in the corner of the second floor. We both got to work very early most mornings and I'd turn the music up to get the day going right, before the lights came on and the capitol got to its usual frantic pace. Ben and I would discuss the important matters of the day, like Eric Clapton, Cream and a shared love of classic blues-driven rock. We would tell jokes and anecdotes of who-did-what from the day before, and occasionally get some work done in those wee hours when we had time to talk through an issue unhurried. It was a nice relationship to have. In the eyes of some, it may be shallow compared to the relationships of others, but it was one that transcended much of the bitterness in that building...and I will miss him very much. My thoughts and prayers are with Libby, BJ and Taylor. I remember their visits to the capitol during sessions and how happy Ben was to see them, and how proud he was as their father. While we may have ended up on opposite sides of the aisle, healthy disagreement is not a bad thing in politics. It makes the result better. And in the end, Ben Westlund added far more to the balance of Oregon than he ever took away.

    Godspeed, friend.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    My respect and gratitude to Ben Westlund for all that he did for Oregon. My deepest sympathies to his family--may his legacy and his accomplishments help provide solace in the days ahead. Ben will truly be missed.

  • Like it is (unverified)

    Still reeling from this. I feel so bad for his wife and kids. I'll always admire him for many things including that his split from the Rethug caucus in part had to do with their senseless intolerance towards gays and their intolerance towards him when he had the courage to do the right things on that issue.

  • Steve Buckstein (unverified)

    My condolences to Ben's family. While we often disagreed on policy issues, Ben was never disagreeable. We had a number of pleasant conversations over the years. If more politicians of all stripes would be more like Ben, this would be a better state.

  • penumbra (unverified)

    Such sad news, Oregon has lost a treasure in Ben. Charming, persuasive and principled, he was quite a character!

    Condolences to The Westlund family, all.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    As a politician Ben Westlund knew that compromise was essential in politics, but unlike many others Ben recognized there was a time for principle to prevail over partisanship. He showed the courage of his convictions and declared his independence, an act many would do well to ponder and follow. Ben thus became free to work assiduously for the causes he believed in to make Oregon a better place to live and work.

    Oregon can and will find another treasurer to replace Ben, and others will pick up a share of the load he once carried with great energy to effect change, but for his family and closest friends Ben will be irreplaceable. To them we send our condolences and a sincere, if inadequate, “thank you” for sharing Ben with the people when his was an essential voice and he was an influential presence working to do what was right for Oregon.

  • PSJackson (unverified)

    Ben was a joy to work with. His presence will be missed. My heart goes out to his family and staff.

  • Derrick Kitts (unverified)

    Having just read this news, I am so saddened. Ben Westlund was a friend in and out of politics. As some of you may recall, Ben gave a great speech on the floor of the House when he returned from chemo the first time. To this day, there has not been a speech that has moved me to the extend Ben's did that day. Ben's passion for Oregon should be a model for all Oregonians. I was proud to financially and politically support Ben in his run for State Treasure.

    To Ben's family, thank you so much for sharing Ben with all of us, he made all of us better people, even if he did not know it.

    Down the trail my friend.

    Derrick Kitts

  • Sen Chip Shields (unverified)

    I had the pleasure of working with Ben when I chaired the Public Safety Subcommittee of Ways & Means in 2007. He was the committee's vice chair. He was also co-chair of Ways & Means during the 2001-03 recession. I learned a tremendous amount from him based on that experience. He always had my back and he helped me gain a deeper understanding of all that was good in public service. My deepest sympathies to his family. I'll miss you Ben. Oregon will miss you.

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    A very sad day for anyone who ever had the pleasure of knowing Ben. He was a truly kind person, who looked for the good in everyone, and never gave up or gave in to cynicism. He believed in public service and the ability to make a difference in people's lives. I'll miss him very much.

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    Ben was such a mensch! One time I was seated on the floor of the Senate with Larry George, who introduced me as one who had gone to the dark side and become a Democrat. Ben got up from his desk, came over to Larry's desk, poked that huge hand out and congratulated me for joining the right side. He was like that all the time. We've lost a renaissance man and are the poorer for it.

  • Jennifer Warren (unverified)

    My first memory of Ben Westlund was after his return to the Capitol following his first bout with lung cancer.

    Up to that point, I have to admit that I had thought of him as just another ornery member of the other party.

    His remarks on the floor that day brought tears to my eyes, and genuine admiration for this person who recognized that while he had had access to the affordable health care that had saved his life - too many other Oregonians did not.

    He came back to the building as a man whose heart had been truly changed by his own experience, and who was committed to making life better for all of his state's citizens.

    In the two years that I worked as a community organizer for Oregonians for Health Security, Ben Westlund was one of our most tireless champions and supporters. Whenever we needed him, to speak at an event, or help us in any way -it seemed that he would always find a way to be there for us.

    His energy, enthusiasm and genuine warmth for the people he spoke to at those events never failed to help win over even the most hesitant crowd.

    Ben Westlund won a little piece of my heart that day I first heard him speak in Salem. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. May they find peace knowing that Ben was truly loved by all who knew him.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    I didn't know Ben well, but one had the feeling that he was their friend when meeting him. He was such a natural politician in the finest sense of the word and how wonderful that he found his true calling in 1996. Ben won by a decent margin that year but it was a competitive race against, ironically, a former R legislator turned D. I recall talking to a D activist from Jefferson County that summer who said what a tough candidate Ben was; doing what a candidate is suppose to do but what some aren't ready for: showing up everywhere and connecting with voters. The Rs were lucky to have him, and we as Democrats were thrilled to call him ours in the end.

    I remember the first time I met him and he was handing out cookies to anyone he walked by in the legislative offices. I told him that I grew on a ranch in northern Wheeler County. As that WWeek profile mentioned, Ben at one time had a ranch in southern Wheeler County. Ben slapped me on the arm and said, "I knew there was something wrong with you, guy." That was typical Ben: giving, friendly, witty, and self deprecating.

    Although Ben didn't have the time and opportunity to rise as high as Governor Tom McCall, I think it's fair to say that he was a moderate, a statesman and an extroverted people’s politician in the McCall tradition.

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    Ben Westlund was impressive in his entire career. When I met him in 2001, he filled any room he entered. His humor was unique and his intelligence led him to question consensus understanding and propose great innovation.

    I was there for "The Speech" from 2003. It encapsulates his personal and political philosophies, his love for his family, and issues, seven years later, that are just now becoming ripe for public action.

    Most recently, in just 14 months in office as Treasurer, he recovered much of Oregon's losses from the near-collapse of the economy, kept the Oregon Treasury on a sound financial footing and improved our financial rating to be among the best in the country saving tax payers millions of dollars. He was among the hardest workers I know: The news releases say he worked through Friday. Ben, we will miss you. My condolences to your family. You died too young.

  • james mattiace (unverified)

    Just got an email letting me know. I am very sad, especially for Oregon. Ben was exactly what Oregon needed. I am reminded of another day, 3 and half years ago, that I got the call that Ben was going to step out of the Governor's race. I felt then like I'd been punched in the stomach. Not questioning his motives why, but because it showed the weaknesses of the campaign system that he couldn't get financial traction. For me both days sound the same note; "what could have been, had he been allowed to continue?"

    For Mike, Stacey, Jonathan, Dan, Courtney and others who worked so close with him I can only imagine their grief in comparison to Libby's and the kids. Ben had two families and strove to be forthright and committed to both. Ben was always the last guy down at any social function, and although he never took a drink, he was the life of the party.

    He was literally the last person I talked to before I left the United States for Morocco, 5mins before take off, sitting on the tarmac at JFK. He just called to say come back soon. Its been 3 years, but I can only imagine how much value he added to Oregon since. Like others have mentioned above, I feel terrible that I haven't contacted him in a while.

    What is most apparent about Ben, for those who didn't get the opportunity, is easily read in the comments above. He was respected and admired by both sides, but not because he always chose the middle path, but because he always placed Oregon above everything else.

    Wow. I am shocked. Ben Westlund, one hell of a guy.

    James Mattiace Kingdom of Morocco

  • AJBrady (unverified)

    I am so sad to hear this news :( Even though I usually didn't agree with Westlund, he was an honorable and good person. I remember him specifically saying hello to me and talking to meseveral times at the Senate, despite the fact that I was nothing more than an intern for a Senator of a different party. Best wishes to his family, the state of Oregon will miss you Senator Westlund! :(

  • Jake Oken-Berg (unverified)

    This is truly sad news. Ben Westlund exemplified the best in politics. He was always straightforward and kind in every interaction I had with him. His passion for the people of Oregon inspired me on numerous occasions. My heart goes out to his family.

  • Mari Anne (unverified)

    One of my favorite politicians. When you got to know Ben, you couldn't help but love him. His passion and excitment for life and for Oregon were addicting. Happy Trails Ben. You will be missed!

  • j. loewen (unverified)


  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    I met Ben in late 2006 when he and Alan Bates were doing their road show for their health care bill creating the Oregon Health Fund and the structure that would eventually get us to a much expanded Oregon Health Plan (in spite of the recession).

    He came right over and sat with us "young folks" from the Bus Project. He was so friendly, and goofy, and made some off color jokes that were just funny and not creepy (this is a true talent!). I remember thinking, "What a funny guy! I wonder who he is?" When I found out he was one of the speakers we came to hear, I was delighted to find out there were warm and funny people who stood up for health care for all AND were in politics.

    One day I hope to be a candidate myself, and I'll remember his example -- make working for the good cause a joy for all those around you!

    Though I only barely knew the man himself, I was struck by this as though he had been my own hometown's favorite son.

  • Stacey Dycus (unverified)

    Thank you everyone for these wonderful posts.

    The family is finding solace in these personal stories and we are going to make a scrapbook for them of these posts, the facebook page comments and all of the pictures you have been sharing. It means more than you know.

  • LT (unverified)

    Stacey---be sure to include the Sept. 2002 OPB interview (during 5th special session) where he was asked why it was so tough to balance the budget. He responded, "Gov. Roberts was right about Measure 5 in everything but the timing".

    A Republican showing respect for a much maligned Democratic Gov. AND skewering the people who had attacked her over this issue while making a point no one ever would have expected a Republican to make.

    That was the day I became a fan of Ben. It is also why he ranks up there with Tom McCall.

    My favorite Tom McCall story:

    Q: Gov. McCall, you and Gov. Reagan don't agree on anything, but the 2 of you are friendly to each other. How can that be?

    A: Ronald Reagan is a peach of a neighbor, it is just that nothing he proposes works.

    What we need now more than ever is politicians with that gift for wit and substance which makes a point without being nasty or snide.

    Old song from the 1960s, "what the world needs now is love".

    <h2>Ben showed that to everyone, and he is sorely missed.</h2>

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