Tim Knopp explains why he's challenging Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend

From OregonLive.com One thing that always seems to come up in a Republican primary contest is the question of who is the "true conservative."  And that's the mantle that former Oregon House Majority Leader Tim Knopp is trying to claim in his primary challenge against state Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend.

Knopp returned back from a trip to Israel Wednesday morning and explained in a phone interview why he decided to file against Telfer just hours before Tuesday evening's deadline for the May 15 primary.

"Republicans are looking for conservative candidates now, from the presidential level on down," said Knopp, "and I want to give them a chance to vote for a true conservative in central Oregon."

Telfer on Tuesday said she was mystified by Knopp's candidacy and said she thinks her record is every bit as fiscally conservative as anything he had done while he was in the House from 1999-05.

But Knopp said he's been encouraged by several local Republicans to mount a challenge against her, and he already has plenty critical to say about her record.

Knopp criticized her for co-sponsoring a bill by Sens. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, and Frank Morse, R-Albany, that would put some of the tax rebate "kicker" money into a rainy-day fund instead of returning it to voters.  And he said her leadership on legislative redistricting produced poor results for Central Oregon.

Most importantly, he said that the region's high unemployment hasn't abated during her four years in office. "I really think this is about providing the right kind of leadership on jobs," he said of his candidacy.

Telfer said she has actually been focused on jobs.  She cites her work on bills that passed the Legislature this year that allow Redmond to rezone a 465-acre parcel for industrial use and that broaden how economic development revenue bonds can be used.  The latter would help local officials lure a so-far-unnamed firm to the area that would create a number of research and development jobs, she said.

Telfer is an accountant who has attracted a fair amount of attention as a fiscal hawk.  She's been at the forefront of making the Republican case that there is a lot of money sitting in various state accounts that could be tapped.

But Knopp says that Telfer -- and the other legislaors -- have failed to do more to reduce the costs of the Public Employees Retirement System, which he said had been in much better shape after he had worked on reforms adopted during the 2003 session, his last in Salem.

Knopp, who comes from the socially conservative wing of the party, also said he is "sure we disagree on some social issues, but the main issue is jobs."

Knopp's candidacy seemed to catch just about everybody in Salem by surprise on Tuesday.  But the Democrats did manage to get a candidate -- Bend resident Geri Hauser -- on the ballot by late Tuesday afternoon.

After all, you never know what might happen when the Republicans start arguing with each other about who is the real conservative.