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Why is No One Running Against Kate Brown?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Governor Kate Brown

With the primaries for the Oregon gubernatorial election just nine months away, Governor Kate Brown holds a comfortable lead based on one main factor: few opponents have announced a campaign.

So far, no Democrats have announced their interest in running for the state’s highest office in 2016, and only one Republican has stepped forward. That would be Bud Pierce, a medical doctor from Salem with no prior political campaign experience.

Sal Peralta, Secretary of the Oregon Independent Party, told GoLocal that challengers for Brown in next year’s special election would be few and far between.

“I think in two years, we are going to have a much different budget situation,” he said. “I think some people are holding their fire until then. They think that two years from now Governor Brown will have had to make some very difficult budget decisions, and she may be more vulnerable then.”

Brown assumed the office in February after former Governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation amid scandal. Brown, at the time serving as Secretary of State, assumed his post on February 18.

No Friendly Fire

Peralta said he did not expect a fellow Democrat to challenge Gov. Brown in the primary.

“I don’t see a path for a Democrat to challenge her in the primaries,” he said. “She’s a fairly popular incumbent governor. For someone to challenge her, she would have had to do something terribly wrong.”

Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, has been floated as a possible opponent for Brown, but the Oregon State Treasurer seems to have his sights set on next year’s race for Mayor of Portland. He spoke at the Oregon Mayor’s Conference in July, but has declined to give an official statement regarding his candidacy.

Republicans Rest Up for Now

Peralta, of the newly recognized OIP, said that no matter which Republican wins next year’s primary and goes on to face Gov. Brown in the general election, they will face an uphill battle.

“Republicans haven’t won statewide office in decades,” Peralta said. “I think that has discouraged some of the leading candidates from running.”

Already, some Republicans rumored to be running for the office have decided not to throw their hat into the race. Just last week, Republican Rep. Knute Buehler put an end to speculation that he may run, saying in a statement that he realized, “I’m just not ready yet.”

Bud Pierce; courtesy BudPierce.com

Bill Currier, Chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, told GoLocal hat he expected more GOP candidates to step forward before next week’s deadline to file and officially announce a campaign on Sept. 10. He did not specify whom he expected to run.

He said the shortened timeline for this election cycle has had an impact on GOP candidates who may consider a bid for the Governor’s office.

“Usually, we like to meet with prospective candidates and speak to them about the possibility of running, whether their interested and if its feasible,” he said. “We haven’t really had the time to do so in this cycle.”

Despite that time crunch, Currier said the ORP plans to “fully support” all Republican candidates in both the primary elections, held on May 17, and the general election on November 8.

He also said the decisions not to run made by Rep. Buehler and Dennis Richardson, a candidate in the 2014 gubernatorial race, have more to do with their current situations then with the state’s political climate.

“With Knute [Buehler], he has a good position with his legislative seat and I don’t think he wants to give that up yet,” he said. “Dennis [Richardson] is looking for more time to round up resources.”

How can the GOP Unseat Brown?

Currier said that in order for a Republican to win the governor’s race for the first time in more than two decades, they will have to convince voters its time for a change in the Beaver State.

“We have to show the damaging effects of one party rule for the people of Oregon,” he said. “The economy, job creation, those things haven’t been there. Republicans think they have the answers to help solve those problems.”

He said that the party would also have to show that former Gov. Kitzhaber “should never have been elected.”


Related Slideshow: Timeline of Kate Brown’s Life and Political Career

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Brown was born on June 21, 1960 in Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain where her father was serving in the U.S. Air Force, but she grew up mostly in Minnesota. 

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Brown graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in Environmental Conservation. She then went on to earn a degree in environmental law from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College. 

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Law Career

Before Brown began her legislative career, she worked at Portland State University and worked as an attorney with the Juvenile Rights Project, a non profit in Portland that provides legal services to children and families. 

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House of Reps

Brown began her legislative career in 1991 in the Oregon House of Representatives where she served two terms. 

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Kate Brown was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1996 and two years later was elected Senate Democratic Leader. 

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Senate Majority Leader

In 2004 Kate Brown became the first woman to serve as Oregon's Senate Majority Leader. Brown served until July 2007 when she announced that she would give up her seat in the Oregon Senate to run for Secretary of State. 

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Secretary of State.

On May 20, 2008, Brown won the election for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State and on November 5 she won the general election by a 51-46 percent margin against Republican candidate Rick Dancer.

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Rising Star

In 2009 the Aspen Institute named Brown as one of 24 "Rising Stars" in American politics and awarded her with a Rodel Fellowship

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Personal Life

Brown lives in Portland with her husband Dan Little who she has been married to for almost 20 years and is also a stepmother to  two children. She identifies as bisexual and was America's first openly bisexual statewide officeholder. 

Photo: Brown kissing Storm Large at Basic Rights Oregon's 27th annual Dinner Auction in 2009. Photo by Byron Beck.

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Cut D.C. Trip Short

On Wednesday, Feb. 11 2015 Brown left is the national conference for the Association of Secretaries of State in Washington D.C. two days early.

The 2015 Winter Conference runs from February 10-13, 2015, and draws top state officials from around the country.

Brown's spokesperson, Tony Green, confirmed she is on her way back to Oregon, and that her return is ahead of schedule. 

According to multiple sources at the highest level of State Government, her return is tied to a potential resignation by the embattled Governor John Kitzhaber.

Photo: Kate Brown with Peter Johnson (left) and George Vranas (right).

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Governor of Oregon

Governor John Kitzhaber released a statement Friday, Feb. 13 announcing his resignation.

Kate Brown will now serve as the Governor until the next general biennial election. A new governor can be elected in 2016. 

Kate Brown will be the second female Governor of Oregon. 

Photo Credit: Kate Brown with Dianne Lin by Byron Beck


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