Multnomah chairman Wheeler named Oregon's state treasurer

PORTLAND — Gov. Ted Kulongoski has named Multnomah County Commission Chairman Ted Wheeler as state treasurer, succeeding Ben Westlund, who died Sunday of lung cancer.

Wheeler, 47, a former financial industry executive and athlete who made it to the top of Mount Everest in 2002, is in the last year of his term heading the government in the state's most populous county.

The appointment is temporary, until voters select someone in November to finish the last two years of Westlund's term.

Wheeler said he would be a candidate, and he's going to have opposition in the Democratic primary in May from state Sen. Rick Metsger of Welches and former state Treasurer Jim Hill.

The only Republican to file was state Sen. Chris Telfer of Bend.

Kulongoski and the candidates moved quickly after Westlund's death because the filing deadline for the elections was 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Wheeler said that he had sometimes thought of running for treasurer, and Kulongoski sought him out Sunday afternoon after Westlund's death was announced.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity," Wheeler said Tuesday at a news conference with the governor in Portland. "I'm saddened by the circumstances that bring me here today."

Kulongoski said his short list was two: Wheeler and former Rep. Greg Macpherson of Lake Oswego. Telling Macpherson he didn't get the job was one of the hardest things he'd done in politics, the governor said.

Macpherson ran afoul of public employee unions in an overhaul of the state public pension system. They threw their support behind Democrat John Kroger in a primary race two years ago for attorney general.

Kulongoski backed Macpherson in that race. The governor said Tuesday the reaction from labor worked against Macpherson as Kulongoski made up his mind Monday evening about the treasurer's job.

"That was part of it," he said.

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