You may not have heard the hoofbeats yet, but the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Furse, D-Ore., is on.
Two Democrats and two Republicans in the 1st Congressional District, which stretches the length of U.S. 26 from Portland to the ocean, quietly have raised campaign money totaling $663,583.
And nearly four months remain until the May 19 election - which makes the 1st District likely to be one of the costliest Oregon primaries in recent memory.
Financial reports due to the Federal Election Commission late Saturday showed every top candidate in the two parties' primaries had raised between $120,000 and $200,000 during 1997.
Among Democrats, Washington County Chairwoman Linda Peters and Portland attorney David Wu are in a close scramble for contributions. A third Democrat in the 1st District, retiree Harold Sigurdson, had no financial activity.
Peters raised $106,772 from individuals, compared with $91,880 for Wu. Her contributors include a number of downtown Portland's elite Democratic donors, including investor and philanthropist Harold Schnitzer and Northwest Aluminum Co.'s Brett Wilcox.
Many of Wu's donors were family and friends, but he also won over some of the glitterati. Investor and philanthropist C. Norman Winningstad and his wife gave $2,000, as did Andrew Wiederhorn, founder of Wilshire Financial Services, and his wife. Wu has more available to spend than Peters because he kicked in $100,000 in personal money.
What it boils down to: total receipts of $195,286 for Wu and $120,772 for Peters.
Meanwhile, Republican Molly Bordonaro shows a stronger fund-raising edge over rival Jon Kvistad. But Kvistad also has contributed $46,220 to his campaign in the form of office equipment and space.
Bordonaro benefits from a strong showing in her first race for public office, a close finish against fellow conservative Bill Witt in the crowded 1996 GOP primary.
Bordonaro and Kvistad are political consultants. Kvistad, considered more a moderate than Bordonaro, also was elected to the Metro regional government.
The GOP primary appears to be causing odd twists and hedging by mainstream and conservative party loyalists.
Developer Robert Randall, a leading conservative donor, gave $1,000 to each candidate. Republican Stan Ash, who ran for secretary of state last year, gave $250 to each candidate.
Moderates such as former state treasurer Bill Rutherford and state Sen. Tom Hartung sided with Kvistad, each sending him $250.
Fund-raising began in the early part of 1997. Furse, who has held the seat since Democrat Les Aucoin retired in 1992, announced in June that she would not run again after three tough races.
Republicans are hoping to take the seat, which has been held for years by Democrats. The race is expected to be pivotal in determining the partisan makeup of Congress next year.
Elsewhere in Oregon, other 1998 races look relatively tame by comparison.
In the U.S. Senate, Democrat Ron Wyden appears to have inherited the remarkable fund-raising flair that kept his predecessor, Republican Bob Packwood, in office for decades.
Wyden is running again after winning a 1996 special election to fill out Packwood's term when the veteran senator quit amid allegations of sexual impropriety.
Wyden, who also served 15 years in Congress, raised $1.7 million in 1997.
The only Republican seeking the nomination to challenge Wyden, state Sen. John Lim, R-Gresham, has raised $78,605.
In the 5th Congressional District, freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley raised $370,390 last year. Another diverse, swing district running from Salem to Tillamook, the 5th usually spawns hotly contested races.
State Sen. Marylin Shannon, R-Brooks, is the only major Republican contender so far. But she hasn't raised money toward the race yet, focusing her fund-raising instead on retiring her $44,000 campaign debt from 1996. She says she has whittled that debt to $3,000.
In the 2nd District of Eastern Oregon, Republican Rep. Bob Smith touched off a potentially hot GOP primary when he announced he wouldn't stand for re-election. But candidates are still emerging and getting organized.
Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., is not up for re-election until 2002. In his first year in the Senate, Smith raised $896,293 from sources other than loans.
Of that, $221,096 was raised during the second half of 1997. But his 1996 campaign committee's debt of nearly $2.3 million also grew by $11,735 during the period.
Most of the debt is the remainder of a $2.57 million personal bank loan Smith transferred to his campaign during the 1995-96 special election. Smith lost to Wyden, but he won election in November 1996 to Mark Hatfield's old seat.
Staff Writer Jim Barnett contributed to this report.