GOLD BEACH — A pair of Oregon House candidates say the dour economy has made fundraising an uphill battle in Southern Oregon.

Both Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, and his Democratic challenger, Jim Klahr, say rural voters have been reluctant to pull out their wallets this election.

“A lot of people who contributed to me in the past aren’t even working,” Krieger said. “Either they are retired or times are tough.”

Klahr, a medicinal marijuana advocate based in Brookings, says he has faced similar challenges in Curry County. His campaign has been fueled almost entirely by friends and family.

While he says donations would be nice, he hopes people will give where it counts — on the ballot.

“I would rather have someone just give me a vote than a dollar,” he said.

But luring individual donors is where shared struggles end between the campaigns of Krieger and Klahr. Donations from special interests have created a wide gulf between their warchests.

Krieger, who has served in the Legislature for 12 years, has raised $51,000. Klahr has raised only $1,800.

Klahr says voters should look closely at those donating to his opponent, which include forestry groups and pharmaceutical companies. He says there’s little question that donations buy access, if not influence.

“If somebody gives you money, they expect something back for it,” he said. “I think it’s human nature.”

Klahr said that question of influence was not isolated to Krieger or the Republican Party. He said there is too much money at all levels of government and the entire system needs reform.

Krieger says people have a misconception about the influence of donations.

He says that special interest groups back candidates that are already aligned with their political view. They don’t request that a candidate vote in a certain way.

“If you talk to anybody who has held office at state level, they will never say they voted for something because they did or did not receive a campaign contribution,” he said.

However, he says he is open to reforming Oregon’s campaign finance system if both Democrats and Republicans can find common ground and without violating the Constitution.

Reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or at dritchie@theworldlink.com.

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