Democrat Kate Brown and Republican Bud Pierce are squaring off to become the next governor of Oregon.
Brown has filled the chair since John Kitzhaber stepped down less than two years ago. The winner of the November election will only serve for the remainder of Kitzhaber’s original term, and will be back up for election in 2018.
Brown has done some good work in her short stint at the top post — shepherding a 9 percent bump to state education funding, pushing through a tiered minimum wage hike and increasing the number of registered voters thanks to her previous work as Oregon Secretary of State. It’s clear that she has a soft spot for Eastern Oregon and Pendleton in particular, which is where she made her first out-of-Salem visit as governor and has often been at the top of her mind at debates all around the state.
But last session Brown failed to wrangle the legislature into passing a much-needed transportation package, her leadership was lacking during the creation and initial explanation of Measure 97, and she has been unable to make satisfactorily clear statements regarding her position on important but controversial issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a possible national monument in the Owyhees.
The only real legislative compromise she reached with Republicans at the capitol was signing House Bill 4040, which ratified the decision of ODFW to remove the gray wolf from the state list of endangered species. It was tossing a proverbial bone at the end of a session where the Democratic agenda was steamrolled through both chambers and into law.
Pierce has long stood out to us, having made a visit to our editorial board one of the first official stops of his primary campaign. Although he has never held public office, he is the intelligent, private-sector focused Republican that Eastern Oregon has been crying out for. And Pierce steers clear of social issues that have tripped up previous GOP candidates. He has no harsh views on issues that aren’t significant to the health of our state, which should make him a viable candidate for Willamette Valley voters who realize change is needed.
Pierce’s worst moment in the campaign came in enemy territory — the City Club of Portland — where he clearly misspoke about domestic violence. He was jeered and booed when he said “A woman that has great education, great training, a great job, is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone.”
It was wrong and he deserved to be chided. But unlike the Republican candidate for president (who Pierce thankfully disowned, although it is unlikely he will be able to run far enough from) Pierce made a straightforward and meaningful apology, listened to women and domestic violence professionals, and emerged from the scandal a more enlightened and complete candidate.
His ardent desire for improving Eastern Oregon is clear, his stance against Measure 97 is in the best interest of the state, and his tax plans and budget show the fiscal responsibility that Oregon needs to have when the economy is humming along.
We’re constantly looking for ways to break the single-party rule that currently exists in Salem. A Republican at the top of it all would certainly do that, and Pierce is a smart, capable candidate who would handle the job and bring some balance to the tilted capitol.