- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Now that Dennis Richardson has secured the Republican nomination to face Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber in November, his next test will be raising enough money to introduce himself to voters before Kitzhaber beats him to it.

National Republicans have been eager to tear Kitzhaber apart over the botched rollout of the state’s health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon. It remains to be seen, however, whether they’ll pony up with money to help Richardson drive home his case against the better-known incumbent.

“It’s going to be up to Richardson to really get out and shake the national money tree,” said Len Bergstein, a lobbyist and political consultant who has worked on many Oregon ballot measure campaigns. “I don’t think there’s enough money in Oregon to finance his race.”

Unlike most states, Oregon has no campaign contribution limits, and large donors can have outsized influence.

In a statement following Richardson’s victory, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said the group “is proud to support Richardson’s campaign” but didn’t offer any specifics.

The RGA works to elect Republican governors around the country. It gave $2.5 million to Chris Dudley’s unsuccessful run against Kitzhaber four years ago.

Once heavily favored, Kitzhaber stumbled badly when Cover Oregon failed to launch a working website despite $134 million paid to its primary contractor, Oracle Corp. A steady drip of bad news has kept the fiasco in the headlines.

The latest came hours before ballots were due Tuesday, when the governor’s office released subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office submitted to Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority, indicating a grand jury is looking into the problems. The subpoenas seek records of communications between state officials involved in developing the website, communications with the federal government about the website’s functionality and communication about reviews that determined whether federal funding would continue.

A number of civil lawsuits also could come, leading to more subpoenas and public court hearings to probe the work on the website.

Richardson has hammered Kitzhaber incessantly on Cover Oregon, linking it with other stumbles to make the case that Kitzhaber has been an ineffective steward of taxpayer money.

Kitzhaber and his allies have largely sat on the sidelines during the primary but are likely to ratchet up their efforts to define Richardson their own way. NARAL, which advocates abortion rights, emailed a fundraising pitch Tuesday saying Richardson’s views are “too extreme for Oregon.”

Richardson’s campaign has about $87,000 in the bank - far less than the $662,000 Kitzhaber has to spend, according to campaign finance records.

“We’re confident that our campaign is going to have the resources that we need to be successful in November,” said Meredith Glacken, a spokeswoman for Richardson.

Kitzhaber’s campaign declined to comment.

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