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Elections complaint filed against Sam Carpenter

Former U.S. Congress candidate Ben West claims the GOP gubernatorial candidate misled voters during a previous campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

COURTESY PHOTO - Bend businessman Sam CarpenterSALEM — Former U.S. Congress candidate Ben West filed an elections complaint Tuesday against GOP gubernatorial candidate Sam Carpenter for allegedly including false information in the 2016 primary Oregon voters' pamphlet.

Carpenter, a Bend businessman, is running for the 2018 nomination for governor on the motto, "Make Oregon Great Again," a twist from President Trump's campaign theme, "Make America Great Again."

In 2016, Carpenter sought the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, but ultimately lost the primary election to Mark Callahan, an information technology consultant.

In the May 17, 2016, voters' pamphlet, Carpenter stated that he graduated with an associate degree in forestry from the "College Environmental Science, Syracuse University."

That's technically untrue: Carpenter attended and received an associate in applied science in forest technology from New York State Ranger School at the State University College of Forestry at Syracuse University on June 1, 1974, according to an April 17 letter from Leslie Rutkowski, the college's registrar.

"Please, note that his degree is not from Syracuse University, but from (State University of New York)," she wrote.

For the primary on May 15 this year, Carpenter corrected his educational background to say "New York State Ranger School, A.A. Degree."

The error in the 2016 voters' pamphlet could have been made unintentionally, she suggested. The State University College of Forestry is adjacent to Syracuse University, and student may attend classes at both campuses, she said.

Given that the name, "Syracuse University," appears on the college transcript, "many of our graduates innocently believe that they also earned a degree from Syracuse University," she wrote.

"That is not the case but has created much confusion, and our alumni should not be penalized for an honest mistake."

West wrote in his complaint that Carpenter has made "conflicting public statements regarding his education."

"To me, it seems like he wanted the swanky notoriety of Syracuse University when he was running for Senate, but now that he is running a so-called Trump-like campaign, I believe he wants to associate more with a trade school or blue collar education," West said in a text message. "I believe he fudged the truth at best."

West also accused Carpenter of misleading voters by stating his 2016 candidacy was his first run for office. He made Federal Election Commission filings for 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 but never filed as a candidate with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, according to the elections database.

Carpenter called West's complaint "much ado about nothing."

"It was described as a tech school in both cases," Carpenter wrote in an email. "It's just an A.A. tech degree. In 2016 and 2018, I had separate staffs, and in both cases, we made up the pamphlet from scratch. It was nothing planned. In both cases, it describes my degree as a two-year technical degree. And anyway, Syracuse University isn't an ivy league school and is not all that notoriously swanky."

Carpenter also addressed the allegations in a post on his campaign website.

Steve Trout, elections director at the Secretary of State's Office, said in an email that his office would acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 48 hours. The office will investigate the complaint, unless it is criminal in nature, in which case the complaint would be forwarded to the state attorney general, Trout said.

West, a registered nurse, was a GOP candidate for U.S. Congress in 2016 and a plaintiff in the 2014 lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to strike down a ban on same-sex marriage in Oregon.