SALEM — If there is a conventional wisdom about Kate Brown’s first campaign for governor it is that a middle-ground Republican could make a race of it. Especially if the Democratically-held legislature goes over the top with a liberal, Portland-centric agenda.
Brown also goes into the governor race without the high name familiarity of a governor who won the first race and has served three years. John Kitzhaber’s name familiarity registered in the 90s.
Two names surface as prospective Republican challengers — Dr. Bud Pierce and Allen Alley. Pierce, a Salem oncologist, has announced his candidacy and Alley says he’s “seriously considering it.”
State Rep. Knute Buehler is mentioned by Republican players, but he has no plan to make the governor’s race. The Bend orthopedic surgeon lost to Kate Brown in the 2012 race for secretary of state in which he was endorsed by all Oregon newspaper editorial pages. Other, outside prospects mentioned are Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, who serves in an executive role and impressed many in the March Dorchester audience, and Rep. Julie Parrish, of West Linn/Tualatin.
Dr. Pierce — like Chris Dudley and Dr. Monica Wehby — is a first-time candidate and is personally capable of providing a base of campaign funding. The drawback of the novice candidate in a statewide race is that they haven’t been tested under fire. Of Dudley, Pierce says: “I think he actually ran a strong campaign. He could have been a little better prepared about issues.”
The big question is whether Alley will make the race, because he would enter the Republican primary with relatively high name familiarity. While Alley engaged Republican pollster Bob Moore in 2014, Alley says he has no poll presently in the field.
Alley ran a convincing race for Oregon treasurer in 2008, securing the endorsements of a number of Oregon newspapers and losing to Ben Westlund by a margin of 51-44 percent. He lost to Dudley in the 2010 Republican primary for governor.
The trick of the Republican primary, says Alley, “is whether you alienate the rest of the electorate.”
With the Oregon electorate split into thirds — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — Alley says: “The day is gone when Democrats can win on their own.” They must attract Independents. “A Republican must get crossover from Democrats.”
The race for Oregon governor costs between $5 million and $10 million.
Pierce, who is 59, has retained Paul Phillips of Pac/West Communications and is being advised by Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem. Pierce says he “was thinking 2018” until Gov. Kitzhaber unraveled.
“I’m willing to commit personal resources to this. But if you can’t get others to support you, you’re not valid as a candidate.”
Pierce’s next step is to “get the PAC going.” Phillips will advise him on when to file.
Rep. Buehler, who is 50, is on the board of the Ford Family Foundation, whose focus is rural Oregon. Buehler says: “I’m in no hurry.” He adds: “I have laser focus on representing Bend. My future plans are a distraction from more important issues.”
This story first appeared in the Oregon Capital Insider newsletter. To subscribe, go to oregoncapitalinsider.com