BEND, OR -- The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Summer Convention has been the traditional launch event for Oregon's Gubernatorial campaign debate season for more than 30 years. However, for the second time since taking office, Governor Kate Brown did not attend this year's event. The 2018 ONPA convention took place last week at Brasada Ranch, outside Bend; the candidate forum was scheduled for Friday.
State Representative and GOP Gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler (R-Bend) tells KBND News he was there, ready to debate, "I feel strongly that if you want to be leader of Oregon, you should be willing to stand up and answer the difficult questions that people in Oregon want answers to." The ONPA debate is usually only attended by major party candidates. Buehler was instead joined by Independent candidate Patrick Starnes, whose party had threatened to sue if he wasn't included.
Governor Brown's campaign tells KBND News she never intended to attend the ONPA event because she was scheduled to appear at the National Governors Association's summer meeting in New Mexico. She also skipped that event in order to help organize firefighting efforts in The Dalles. However, Buehler points out Brown also did not attend the Oregon event in 2016, when she was running against Republican Bud Pierce, "This is consistent with Governor Brown's just overall, general lack of transparency, being open and accessible."
He says trying to schedule debate opportunities has been difficult, "We suggested 10, and the Governor countered with three, and right now we're just even trying to get the Governor to agree to three concretely. That also seems to be shifting around with regards to date and location." So far, he says two are on the calendar: one in Portland and one in Medford, "I feel strongly that we should debate in Central Oregon so people in Central Oregon have the ability to hear their future Governor and the former Governor talk about these important issues."