Oregon Governor Cruises to Primary Win

by | May 16, 2018

By Hillary Borrud

Gov. Kate Brown cruised to an easy win in the Democratic primary, marking the official start of a re-election campaign she has focused on for more than a year.

In partial returns Tuesday, Brown collected 82.6 percent of votes cast.

Fortified by the power of the incumbency and support among key Democratic constituencies, Brown faced nominal opposition. She never campaigned against her two Democratic challengers and instead focused on the Republican she expected to face in November, Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend.

Buehler signaled on Tuesday night he will push for the type of robust discussion in the general election that did not occur in the Democratic primary. At his victory party in Wilsonville, Buehler challenged Brown to participate in 10 debates around the state between now and November. Brown's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Buehler's proposal.

Neither of Brown's primary opponents, Candace Neville of Eugene and Ed Jones of Redmond, reported raising or spending any money to campaign, and there were no public debates. Brown, who became governor in 2015 when Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned, lives in Southeast Portland with her husband, Dan Little. She previously served 17 years in the Legislature and six as Oregon's secretary of state.

Brown has been fundraising and strategizing since being elected in 2016 to finish the rest of Kitzhaber's term, and is in a strong position financially going into the general election. As of Tuesday, Brown's campaign was sitting on $3.7 million after spending more than $2 million over the last 18 months, largely on political staff and consultants.

In contrast, Buehler's camp was down to $1.3 million after spending heavily on advertising in the final weeks of the primary.

Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, said Brown's focus on fundraising makes sense given Republicans' historical cash advantage.

"In the back of her mind, she's thinking of 2010 when the Republican Chris Dudley raised over $10 million," Moore said. "Democrat John Kitzhaber raised about $7.4 million. So, she just wants to be on top of that."

If the general election turns out to be less expensive, Brown could use her extra cash to try to elect a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature and support or oppose key ballot initiatives, Moore said.

As for Brown's political strength going into the general election, it will be determined, in part, by what happens in Salem over the next week. The governor took a gamble calling for a special session to expand an existing tax break that is already controversial with Democrats, many of whom want to trim rather than broaden it. Republicans have accused Brown of using the session to boost her approval among businesses.

(c)2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)