Kate Brown came to be Oregon's governor in an unusual manner, as you might recall: As secretary of state, she stepped into the job in 2015, after John Kitzhaber resigned in the midst of a corruption investigation.
Brown did an admirable job that year, keeping state government and legislators focused. It was a promising start for Brown's tenure, and she easily won election to the job in a 2016 race to fill out the remaining years of Kitzhaber's term. (That promising start helped Brown earn an endorsement in 2016 from the Gazette-Times.)
Since then, though, the governor and her administration have been stuck in neutral, with little progress being made on many of the key issues facing the state. The state's education system is stalled in key metrics such as graduation rates and test results. We've seen little appetite to pursue fixes with the state's public pension system, where an unfunded liability of $22 billion is eating away at the budgets of Oregon schools and other governmental entities.
Brown has been maddeningly vague about how she would deal with issues such as these, and in some cases has asked Oregon citizens to hold off for details until November, after her re-election battle with Rep. Knute Buehler has ended.
As you examine the choice in this year's election race, how you mark your ballot may depend on how much you trust Brown to follow through on those promises.
But, without more evidence from Brown that she has a vision for the state, it seems to us that Oregon cannot afford another four years in neutral: We recommend that voters this year elect Buehler.
In what may turn out to be a wise strategy in deep-blue Oregon, Brown's campaign has worked hard to link Buehler to President Donald Trump, but the linkage seems weak to us: Buehler has been a frequent critic of Trump (also a wise strategy for a Republican running in deep-blue Oregon). During his time in the House, Buehler has parted ways with his Republican colleagues on a number of occasions, perhaps most notably on a gun-control measure to ban firearms ownership by people convicted of domestic abuse. It's easy to compare him to the sort of moderate Republican Oregonians used to elect.
Where Brown can be vague on issues, Buehler has specifics: On education, for example, he's talked about lengthening the school year from 165 to 180 days and hiring aides to help get third-graders reach reading standards, a critical benchmark.
A couple of items rub us the wrong way about Buehler: First, he needs to release more of his tax returns, especially in the wake of reports that he and his wife, Patricia, invested in the state's ill-fated business energy tax credits program in about 2008, before he was elected to the House. There's nothing inherently wrong with that investment, but after he was elected to the state House in 2014, Buehler joined the chorus of lawmakers who were critical of the program. Buehler has released his tax returns for 2016 and 2017, but needs to go back further.
Second, we're baffled by Buehler's wrongheaded endorsement of Measure 105 to repeal Oregon's 30-year-old sanctuary law, which blocks state and local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents. The endorsement that would have made more political sense in the GOP primary, when he was facing challenges on his right — but now, in the general election, it makes no sense from either a political or a policy standpoint.
The race includes another major party candidate, Independent Patrick Starnes. Starnes has run a vigorous campaign focused on campaign finance reform, but he doesn't have the experience that we need in the state's governor.
Buehler does. And he would bring a focused vision to the governor's office that Brown has been unable or unwilling to muster. It's time for change in Salem. Buehler is the candidate best positioned to bring that change. (mm)