'Your Voice, Your Vote': Big issues face Oregon's next governor

Gov. Kate Brown and Dr. Bud Pierce. (KATU File Photos). CLICK above to watch Sunday's "Your Voice, Your Vote."

Next year Oregon’s governor will need to lead the state in finding solutions to such issues around PERS, transportation, affordable housing and any fallout from the passage or rejection of the controversial corporate tax measure, Measure 97, that voters will be deciding in a few weeks.

The governor’s plate will be full, and Oregon voters this November will also decide who will be given the utensils to dig into the details and political pitfalls served up to the state’s most visible political figure.

Gubernatorial candidates weren’t supposed to be on the ballot this year. Gov. John Kitzhaber was supposed to be in office right now. But an influence-peddling scandal derailed his historic fourth term and he resigned not long after taking the oath of office.

By law then Secretary of State Kate Brown stepped into the governor’s job. But the law also dictated that an election be held to finish out Kitzhaber’s final two years. In September of last year Salem oncologist Bud Pierce, a Republican, declared he would run for the seat. Soon after, Brown, a Democrat, announced she’d run for the office on her own merits.

KATU invited both candidates to discuss their visions for Oregon and their campaigns for governor in separate interviews over a cup of coffee at the Bipartisan Café in Southeast Portland last week for Sunday’s “Your Voice, Your Vote.”

(Watch the full show below)

Brown was proud of the accomplishments she had made so far as governor.

“In spite of everything, we’ve been moving Oregon forward,” she told the show’s host Steve Dunn. “We passed the nation’s first coal to clean, intentionally moving Oregon away from coal-generated electricity, and we’ve passed the nation’s first automatic voter registration system, enabling every eligible Oregonian to have their vote be heard. So under my strong leadership, we’re going to keep moving forward.”

The road to the governorship for Pierce is rocky, uphill and has even contained a pothole of his own making this campaign.

A Republican hasn’t been elected as Oregon’s governor for around 30 years. Pierce has never held political office. The state is solidly Democratic or Democratic leaning. But he said he’s working to reach out to Democratic supporters in the race.

“I have a strong outreach to the Latino community, the African American community,” he told Dunn. “When people listen to me talk, I’m talking about bread and butter issues; I’m talking about helping people on the low end of the economic totem pole. … We maintain the importance of the environment as a key issue, and again we’re fiercely interested in turning around people’s lives, whose lives have become diminished or very difficult.”

He said he’s learned from this campaign, especially after he made remarks at a City Club of Portland debate several weeks ago that many said showed his ignorance of the issue of domestic violence against women, no matter what educational background they come from.

“To have tasted the sting of ignorance … that’s part of growing as a person and admitting your weaknesses and try(ing) to change that,” he told Dunn.

Pierce has apologized numerous times.

Brown said she appreciated his apology, but “I had just revealed that I was a survivor of domestic violence, and I think he knows my educational background, and it felt like he didn’t hear what I had to say. …

“I think the question is really up to Oregonians whether they want someone who has played a leadership role on these issues, fought to toughen penalties, fought to make sure that we have the resources to provide a safety net for girls and women across the state that are struggling with domestic violence. …”

As for the issues of transportation, affordable housing and PERS reform, the candidates agree that something needs to be done.

On transportation, Brown said elected officials from the entire state need to come together to “develop a transportation package that invests in mass transit, ensuring people can get to their jobs safely, reducing congestion and frankly, investing in seismically retrofitting our roads and bridges so that our bridges can survive a post-Cascadia event.”

Pierce agreed that getting a deal done will take cooperation from many people but Democrats would need to “exchange some carbon plans that don’t really help carbon, but costs drivers.”

To help ease the housing crisis, Brown said more affordable units need to be built, and she said she also wants to prohibit no-cause evictions.

“I think we need to keep all options on the table,” including rent control, she said.

But Pierce flatly said rent control wasn’t the answer.

“Rent control is proven to be a failed policy,” he said.

Instead, he wants to try to find ways of building good housing for less money.

“The cities, the counties, the state are going to have to take less of a cut so that the cost isn’t added to the cost of the property,” he said.

Then there is the contentious issue of PERS reform. The state has a $22 billion unfunded liability to deal with.

“I am uninterested in PERS bailout without real reform,” Pierce said, adding that he’s willing to put more money into the system, but “It can’t be more money into the current failing system.”

Brown said she’ll work with the Oregon Investment Council on solutions.

“I’m open to all options that are legally viable and result in significant savings,” she said.

Click above to watch the full show.

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