Ben Westlund

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Ben Westlund
Ben Westlund Forward Oregon.jpg
27th Treasurer of Oregon
In office
January 5, 2009 – March 7, 2010
Governor Ted Kulongoski
Preceded by Randall Edwards
Succeeded by Ted Wheeler
Member of the Oregon Senate
from the 27th district
In office
Preceded by Beverly Clarno
Succeeded by Chris Telfer
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 53rd district
In office
Preceded by Beverly Clarno
Succeeded by Gene Whisnant
Personal details
Born (1949-09-03)September 3, 1949
Long Beach, California, U.S.
Died March 7, 2010(2010-03-07) (aged 60)
Bend, Oregon, U.S.
Political party Democratic (2006–2010)
Independent (2006)
Republican (1996–2006)
Spouse(s) Libby
Residence Tumalo, Oregon, U.S.
Alma mater Whitman College
Occupation Rancher

Ben Westlund (September 3, 1949 – March 7, 2010) was an American politician in the U.S. state of Oregon. A Democrat, he was elected State Treasurer in 2008. Previously, Westlund served in both houses of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, as a Republican from 1996 to 2006, as an independent from 2006 to 2007, and then as a Democrat. Westlund dropped his Republican party affiliation to run for Governor of Oregon in the 2006 election, but dropped out of the race in August. In December 2006 he became a Democrat.[1] Westlund worked as a business analyst, and ran businesses in mining, ranching, and agriculture.[2]

Early life[edit]

Westlund was born in Long Beach, California and his family moved to Oregon when he was a teenager. He graduated from Oregon Episcopal School in 1967, then received a bachelor's degree from Whitman College[3] in education and history and pursued some graduate studies at the University of Oregon. He moved to Central Oregon in 1974 and lived near Bend, running a ranch, with his wife Libby and two children, son B.J. and daughter Taylor.[2]

Westlund was arrested for drunk driving and possession of cocaine in 1982. He credited that incident with convincing him to stop drinking. He later served in the Oregon Legislature with the arresting officer, Rep. John Minnis.[4]

Oregon legislature[edit]

In 1996, Westlund won election to the Oregon House of Representatives as a Republican.[1] During four terms in the House, his most notable work was done as co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee, to which he was appointed in 2001. He unsuccessfully argued for the creation of a state sales tax as a means to balance the budget during a revenue shortfall.[5]

That same year, he co-sponsored legislation to create the Oregon Cultural Trust,[6] and subsequently came under fire for seeking to head the newly created organization. He served on the Cultural Trust's board until his election as State Treasurer.[7]

In what would be Westlund's last House race, he defeated Democrat Cylvia Hayes, a Bend businesswoman who later became Oregon's first lady during the third and fourth terms of Governor John Kitzhaber.[8]

In 2003, Westlund was appointed to the Oregon Senate to complete the term of retiring Sen. Bev Clarno.[1] He won election to that same seat in 2004, also gaining the local Democratic nomination and facing only token opposition on the ballot.[9] He represented District 27 in the Senate, which covers most of Deschutes County and includes the city of Bend.

During the 2004 election, Westlund endorsed Ballot Measure 36, which outlawed same-sex marriage in Oregon.[10] After learning that research claims by Measure 36 proponents on which he had relied were rejected by the researcher, he personally called the researcher to apologize, expressing regret for supporting the measure.[11] He subsequently sponsored a bill in the legislature to allow civil unions. That effort was defeated in part thanks to opposition by Speaker of the House Karen Minnis, wife of the officer who arrested Westlund in 1982.[12] Civil union legislation was later resurrected and passed in the 2007 legislature, becoming law in 2008.

Westlund was pro-choice and supported access to the morning-after pill. During his time in the legislature, however, he had supported some restrictions on abortion. In 2003 he backed House Bill 2547[13] and in 2005 he backed H.B. 2532.[14] Both would have created a 24-hour waiting period for women wishing to receive an abortion and required doctors to read a statement to patients about abortion. In 2005, he also supported H.B. 2605,[15] a parental notification bill, and H.B. 2020,[16] which would have expanded Oregon's criminal homicide law, redefining "human beings" to include fetuses and embryos at any stage of development.

Statewide office[edit]

Following his switch to the Democratic Party, there was speculation that Westlund would run against Republican incumbent U.S. Senator Gordon Smith. On October 3, 2007, however, in a press conference attended by Governor Ted Kulongoski, he announced his candidacy for the office of Oregon State Treasurer. He won the Democratic primary and defeated Allen Alley in the November 2008 general election.[3] He was sworn in on January 5, 2009.[citation needed] Westlund was one of the first statewide officeholders to be cross-nominated by the Independent Party of Oregon.

2006 Governor's race[edit]

On February 14, 2006, Westlund dropped his Republican registration, registered as an independent and declared his candidacy for Governor.[17] While Westlund gathered over 36,000 signatures[18] (18,386 valid signatures required by August 29, 2006 for ballot access), he withdrew from the race for governor on August 10, 2006, citing that he did not want to be a spoiler in the election.[19]

Health issues and death[edit]

Westlund was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003, for which he underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Although the cancer was in remission for some time,[20] Westlund died of cancer on March 7, 2010 while in office.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b c Sinks, James (December 12, 2006). "Independent Westlund switches to Democrat". The Bend Bulletin. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  2. ^ a b "Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund". Office of the State Treasurer. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  3. ^ a b Walsh, Edward (September 25, 2008). "Financial meltdown figures into Oregon treasurer's race". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on 29 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  4. ^ Petitioners expect to suspend law recriminalizing pot
  5. ^ "The Wild Card? Source Weekly, 10 November 2005". Archived from the original on 2006-05-12. Retrieved 2006-01-12. 
  6. ^ Oregon Cultural Trust : History of the Oregon Cultural Trust Archived January 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2006-01-12. 
  8. ^ Jaquiss, Nigel (October 8, 2014). "Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes' Undisclosed Third Marriage Was to 18-Year-Old Immigrant". Willamette Week. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ Deschutes County, Oregon General Election November 2, 2004 Archived March 30, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Measure 36 - Arguments in Favor
  11. ^ "The Yale Herald - November 12, 2004 - Gay marriage critics misuse Yale study". Archived from the original on 2004-12-07. Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  12. ^ Brainstorm Nw
  13. ^ Relating to information that a health care provider must provide to a female at least 24 hours before performing an abortion in order to obtain the female's informed consent to the abortion; creating new provisions; and amending ORS 435.496 Archived January 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Relating to the reporting of information about abortion; creating new provisions; and amending ORS 432.333 and 435.496 Archived January 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Relating to notification to a parent prior to performing an abortion on a minor Archived June 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Relating to establishing an unborn child as the legal victim of a crime that results in harm to the unborn child; creating new provisions; and amending ORS 163.005, 163.095, 163 Archived January 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Westlund launches bid to be governor - The Bulletin, 15 February 2006
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  19. ^ Ben Westlund Withdraws From Oregon Governor's Race - Salem-News.Com
  20. ^ “Ben Westlund” | Willamette Week | April 26th, 2006 Archived 2008-11-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Treasurer Westlund succumbs to cancer | | KGW News | Portland, Oregon Archived 2010-04-20 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Lehman, Chris (March 7, 2010). "Westlund Loses Battle With Cancer". Capitol Currents. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Randall Edwards
Treasurer of Oregon
Succeeded by
Ted Wheeler