May 23, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

A La Grande attorney and former state representative today acknowledged the possibility he could be appointed to a U.S. Federal District judgeship in Portland.

Ray Baum could learn about the appointment as early as this afternoon.

Im still working full-time on cases in La Grande and working by the hour doing some lobbying for Union County in Salem, Baum said this morning.

If I get the appointment, great. I would definitely take it if it were offered. But Im not counting on anything. Its been talked about for six to eight months. But these political things take time.

Baum would move to Portland if he gets the appointment, Baum said, taking with him his wife, Kristine, and the four of their six children who are still living at home.

It would be a full-time job, so Id be required to live in the Portland area, said Baum, who is in a law practice with his brother, David Baum.

Right now, Im planning on being here in La Grande and continuing to work here until it actually happens. I cant count on it happening.

U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican from Pendleton, said Wednesday that Baum was the leading candidate to replace Judge Robert E. Jones, one of 14 U.S. District judges in Portland. Jones took senior status a year ago.

A Smith spokesman in Washington, D.C., said this morning he could have word of the appointment later today. He would not say if the upheaval centered on the party switch by Vermont Sen. James Jeffords would pose any problems with the appointment.

Baum, a Republican who has served as the majority leader in the Oregon House, is well thought of by both parties, Smith said.

Baum, who helped Smith get elected to the Oregon Senate in the early 1990s, left the Legislature in 1996 to spend more time with his family, he said then.