Oregon Rep. Knute Buehler is visiting The Dalles on Thursday to talk with GOP leaders about his campaign to oust Gov. Kate Brown, who he strongly criticizes for “failed leadership.”
“I am traveling the state listening and learning,” said Buehler, who resides in Bend and represents House District 54.
His stop at the Beef & Burgundy dinner and auction hosted by Wasco County Republicans at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 at the Shilo Inn will be to gather information about local concerns. He also wants to share what he believes the cures for the state’s ills will be, based on four years of working in Salem and learning how the system functions.
Buehler is undaunted about challenging Brown, a Democrat, in a state that has not elected a Republican governor since the late Victor Atiyeh, who served from 1979-1987.
“Everywhere I go, people are telling me they feel left behind, that their problems have not been solved, or have been ignored, and they are frustrated,” he said. “I am running for people who feel left out, left behind. I am running to bring leadership for a change – to bring more jobs to Wasco County and other areas where families are struggling.”
He cites Oregon’s dismal graduation rates as one example of Brown’s “failed” leadership.
Oregon currently ranks 48th in on-time graduation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Top states in the nation graduate 90 percent of students.
“Since Gov. Brown took office, 20,000 kids have dropped out and they are going to have a difficult future,” said Buehler. “She’s done nothing to improve one of the worst drop-out and graduate rates in the nation.”
He believes his experience as a physician and an independent leader with a history of working in a bipartisan manner to solve problems is just what Oregon needs.
“I’m open minded and I want to bring a thoughtful voice into conversations about what needs to happen to bring out the great potential in Wasco County and other areas of the state,” said Buehler. “I think we can see a renaissance that brings back jobs when we elect a governor who brings back leadership.”
In 2012, Buehler challenged Brown for the secretary of state seat she had held since 2008. Brown won by 11 percentage points. Buehler, 53, said times have changed and Oregonians are ready for something different than the status quo offered by Brown. He takes it as a good sign that he has received $1.4 million from 3,000 individual donors since declaring his candidacy Aug. 2.
Brown 57, has been governor since February 2015, when she succeeded Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned one month after his inauguration amid an ethics scandal. She won a special election in November 2016 to fill the final two years of Kitzhaber’s term and will seek a full four-year term in 2018.
Buehler contends that Brown’s administration has been mired in ethics issues despite her pledge to “restore trust and integrity” in state government.
“There is a culture of chaos and corruption in Salem,” said Buehler.
He said Brown has replaced her chiefs of staff three times since taking office and one of these individuals, Kristen Leonard, departed after the Willamette Week reported that she and her husband, Kevin Neely, had a financial interest in a bookkeeping firm whose biggest client was Brown’s re-election campaign.
Then it was reported by Bill Currier of the Oregon Republican Party that public employee union AFSCME contributed an unprecedented $100,000 to Brown’s campaign as “appreciation” for “her handling of their recent contract negotiations.” Days later, Brown prioritized the union’s $15 minimum wage proposal and public employee unions got a “sweet” contract.
Days later, Brown prioritized the union’s $15 minimum wage proposal and public employee unions got a “sweet” contract.
Meanwhile the debt from public employee pensions has climbed to over $25 billion and is threatening the budgets of state and local agencies across Oregon, said Buehler.
He said the Oregonian/Oregon Live’s coverage of corruption in the state’s Energy Department led to the indictment of Martin Shain, the lead consultant on the state’s $24 million “Solar by Degree” project. A Marion County grand jury determined that Shain should be prosecuted for forgery, bribery, racketeering, theft and tax evasion.
Shain is accused of creating a phony invoice from a fictional subcontractor that received nearly $12 million in tax credits from the state. His indictment came two days after former agency manager, Joe Colello, pleaded guilty to accepting $291,017 in kickbacks.
In an unusual move in March, Brown fired three of the five members of the Environmental Quality Commission, the governor-appointed volunteer board that oversees the state Department of Environmental Quality, according to an Oregonian/Oregon Live report.
Brown ousted Commissioners Colleen Johnson, Morgan Rider and Melinda Eden.
Johnson had been nominated for a second four-year term by Brown and re-confirmed by the Senate almost three years earlier. Rider had another 15 months left in her term and Eden had three months remaining.
Brown’s office was criticized by Buehler and others for initially providing little public explanation for the firings. Brown then said that DEQ needed new leadership to meet challenges to protect Oregon's air and water resources.
Buehler contends that lines are too easily blurred these days in Salem and ethical lapses and partisan abuses of power might not rise to the level of criminal behavior but they are smoothed over by political maneuvering.
“Oregon lags, it shouldn’t be this way,” he said. “State government is under performing and is not effective. I will bring the change that Oregon needs.”
In the coming months, he plans to take the information he gathers from Wasco County and other areas of Oregon and further define the issues that he wants to address.
For more information about Buehler’s campaign, visit knutebuehler.com or call 503-303-8441.