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Michael Bloomberg drops big donation to Oregon secretary of state candidate

File--In this Jan. 27, 2015, file photo, Oregon Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, speaks during a legislative forum at the Capitol in Salem, Ore. For OregonÂ?s upcoming primary on May 17, the Democratic race for Secretary of State is arguably tightest between Hoyle and Sen. Richard Devlin. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dropped $250,000 into state Rep. Val Hoyle's campaign for Oregon secretary of state, raising the stakes in what's considered the hottest statewide race in Oregon's May 17 primary.

Bloomberg is among the nation's most vocal proponents of gun control. A spokesman for the New York billionaire, Howard Wolfson, said the donation was prompted by Hoyle's role in helping pass Oregon's 2015 gun background-check law.

"No one in the country has worked harder - or more successfully - to take on the NRA than she has," Wolfson said of Hoyle.

The donation, made April 29, is the single largest in recent memory to a candidate for secretary of state, the second most-powerful position behind the governor that, despite the little attention it receives, has a big impact on Oregonians' lives by handling such things as elections, voter registrations and business-related filings.

That, on top of another $100,000 donation from Washington, D.C., political action committee Emily's List - which supports female Democratic candidates nationwide - just two days prior, puts Hoyle's fundraising ahead of her two prominent Democratic opponents before next week's primary.

Hoyle has raked in $587,000 in donations this calendar year so far, while State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian is behind her with about $387,000. State Sen. Richard Devlin, whose years writing the state's budget is seen as an asset for the state secretary post, has raised $160,500 this year.

Both Devlin and Avakian criticized the Bloomberg donation Monday.

Avakian sent a fundraising email drawing attention to it with the headline "Wall Street Billionaire tries to buy Oregon's Democracy."

Devlin called the move shocking because he said Hoyle has claimed she'll get big money out of Oregon politics.

"Even more disturbing is that this $250,000 check is an admitted direct payment for a single piece of legislation," he told The Register-Guard.

It also means Hoyle, former majority leader of the House, clinched the biggest single donations to-date that both Emily's List and Bloomberg personally have made to an Oregon candidate for statewide or legislative office, records with the secretary of state's office show.

Cody Chasteen, Hoyle's campaign manager, disputed Devlin's characterization that the donation "was a payback situation," saying it was in recognition for Hoyle's leadership on background-check legislation.

Hoyle's been in contact with Bloomberg's office for several months, so the donation wasn't a surprise, he said. "The timing of it was somewhat expected, and we're honored to have the support of Mr. Bloomberg," Chasteen said.

The donation doesn't conflict with Hoyle's pledge to work on creating campaign contribution limits, Chasteen said. Avakian and Devlin "have raised lots of money from donors who aren't small donors," he told The Register-Guard.

Bloomberg's other personal donations include a $5,000 to Democratic Rep. Tobias Read in December and $2.13 million total to Vote Yes on 90, the PAC behind the "open primary" ballot measure that failed in 2014.

He also funnels cash through his PAC, Everytown for Gun Safety, which gave former Gov. John Kitzhaber the same amount as Hoyle during his gubernatorial run in 2014 - representing more than half of the $450,000 total the PAC doled out to statewide campaigns that year.

Next Tuesday's primary will decide which Democrat will face off in November against one of the two notable Republican candidates - Kitzhaber's 2014 GOP opponent Dennis Richardson and Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken. Richardson has maintained a strong lead over Leiken's fundraising, with $287,000 donations this year so far compared with his opponent's $44,700.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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