In their own words: Candidates for Congress, governor

Oct. 31, 2018 — To provide voters with a closer look at the candidates for Oregon’s Governor and Fourth Congressional District, what follows is a Q&A that primary candidates for those races had with the Siuslaw News.


Governor’s Race

The race to occupy the Oregon Governor’s Mansion, Mahonia Hall, is officially a contest between four candidates. However only two of these individuals are likely to receive enough support from voters to become Oregon’s next Governor.

Nick Chen is running as the candidate of the Libertarian Party and Patrick Starnes is running as an Independent. Neither candidate has a statewide ground organization, and both have a very limited media presence, with no major television or radio ads airing in the week leading up to the election.

Oregon State Rep. Knute Buehler is the Republican candidate for governor and sitting Democrat Gov. Kate Brown is running for her first full term in the office.

Both Brown and Buehler are polling in the 40th percentiles among voters, with Starnes and Chen trailing far behind.

The political statistics firm Real Clear Politics is calling the race to lead Oregon a “toss-up.”

The 2018 governor’s race is the second time these candidates have competed for the same office, with Buehler being defeated by Brown for the position of Secretary of State in 2015.

Brown then served as secretary of state under former Gov. John Kitzhaber and ascended to the state’s highest office after Kitzhaber’s unexpected resignation in 2015.

Brown won a special election in 2016 to finish the remainder of Kitzhaber’s term and is now running for her first full term as governor.

Brown’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of Colorado in Environmental Conservation and a J.D. degree from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College, obtained in 1985.

Buehler is serving his second term as the representative from District 54, which includes Coos Bay. He is a graduate of Oregon State University and was the school’s first Rhodes Scholar, attending Merton College in Oxford, England. Buehler then graduated from John Hopkins University in Maryland before beginning a successful medical practice in Bend.

Brown is currently leading Buehler by a few percentage points in polling, 43 to 40 percent, the difference within the statistical margin of error, as the race has tightened over the last month.

Both Brown and Buehler provided responses to questions posed with an eye towards gaining insight into the priorities of the candidates.


Why are you running for Governor?

Brown: I first ran for public office to be a voice for the voiceless. And as Oregon’s governor, every day I am fighting to improve the lives of working families.

As governor, I led bipartisan work on transportation, Medicaid funding and ensuring all kids have healthcare. We worked across the aisle to make community college more affordable and put more dollars into our classrooms.

We worked together, urban and rural, to build a better Oregon. When politicians tried to cut Oregonians’ healthcare, I fought back. I protected our coast from offshore drilling.

I made sure every woman can access reproductive healthcare. I have been clear during my time as governor that I will do what I say and say what I do. My record is clear. I will stand up and protect the Oregon that we love.

Buehler: Serving in the legislature and running for governor has given me the chance to listen to and learn from Oregonians all across the state. This has confirmed an important insight for me that Oregonians are unhappy with the performance of our state government and especially its leaders in Salem.

Despite all the good we have going for us, including record revenue in our treasury, our most pressing problems are still getting worse. What we are missing is a government as good, as wise, as innovative and as thrifty as her people.

This is why I am running for governor. To bring moderate, independent leadership to fix the big problems Brown has avoided, ignored or made worse as governor.


What do you feel are the most pressing challenges facing our state?

Brown: Our state faces many challenges, but the most pressing include strengthening our education system and improving our graduation rate, protecting access to high-quality, affordable health care, and increasing affordable housing options in the state.

Buehler: My top priority will be to rescue our students, teachers and public schools from the classroom funding and graduation crisis that has gone on for far too long. The single biggest failure of Gov. Brown is her indifference to fixing our public schools. I have a detailed plan with big important goals to fix it.

The vision is ambitious — but achievable. As governor, I’ll lead Oregon schools from the bottom five to the top five in five years by fixing Oregon’s broken pension system, increasing funding for our classrooms, and making targeted investments in proven programs — such as CTE/STEM and 3rd grade reading.


What issues are you interested in addressing if elected?

Brown: While our economy is growing in Oregon, that growth isn’t reaching everyone. Over the next four years, I will bring together Democrats and Republicans, urban and rural Oregonians, to tackle the state’s big problems and make sure every Oregonian has the opportunity to thrive.

First, we have to strengthen our schools. I have a plan to expand high-quality preschool in the next two years to an additional 10,000 low-income children; reduce class sizes, require a 180-day school year, and expand career and technical education.

For all Oregonians to thrive, we must also expand access to high-quality, affordable health care. I will fight to protect our Medicaid expansion and make sure that every Oregonian, no matter where they live, has access to the care they need.

Buehler: As mentioned above, one of my top priorities is fixing our broken education system and pension program.

Next, we need to regain our status as a national leader in health care and Medicaid delivery, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who depend on it.

In the past our health care system was known for its compassion and innovation. Today, it is known for scandals, mismanagement and waste. As a physician, I will lead to ensure that every Oregonian has access to high-quality health care.

Third, homelessness is a humanitarian, public health and public safety crisis. I will lead with compassion, and a little tough love to ensure that in Oregon, a tent or a sidewalk is never anyone’s home.

Finally, our rural communities have been left behind and forgotten by leaders in Salem for far too long. Oregon’s rural-urban divide is not an immovable feature of the natural landscape. It is an artificial political divide resulting from choices made every day in Salem by elected officials and unelected government employees. I will be a leader for all of Oregon.

As governor, I will make State government a partner for growing jobs and restoring hope and opportunity in rural Oregon.


How do your positions differ from those of your opponents?

Brown: Sometimes I feel like I’m running against two different people because what candidate Buehler says does not match what Rep. Buehler has done — especially when it comes to health care. As a legislator, Rep. Buehler voted against a bipartisan package to fund Oregon’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

By voting no, he voted to take away critical health care from 430,000 Oregonians — including 80,000 kids. Rep. Buehler also voted against a plan that would have covered 100 percent of Oregon’s children. That’s not only dead set against Oregon values, it’s cruel.

Buehler: I will challenge the status quo and be a governor for all of Oregon, no matter who you are, where you live, who you love, or how you register to vote. In contrast, Brown has proven that she is unwilling to take on the powerful special interests in her own party that defend a broken system. I will bring moderate, independent leadership to the governorship while working with Democrats, Republicans and Independents to help solve our most pressing issues.


What else do you feel would be important for our readers to know about your candidacy?

Brown: As governor, I brought legislators from both parties together to fight for Oregon families.

We passed a transportation package that will reduce traffic, create 16,000 new jobs and make our roads safer. We passed a first in the nation pay equity and fair scheduling bills.

We worked together to ensure that 430,000 Oregonians have access to affordable health care because everyone should be able to see the doctor when they’re sick.

Buehler: Brown has been in elected office for 30 years and the past four as governor. She has more money than any other governor in Oregon’s history, yet our most pressing problems continue to get worse — teachers are still getting laid off, class sizes are getting bigger and our graduation rates are still third-worst in the nation.

We have a growing homelessness crisis and vulnerable foster kids are not getting the care they need. Brown had her chance to show that she is capable of solving the big problems facing Oregonians.

We need new leadership. I will lead where Kate Brown has failed.


U.S. Congressional Race

DeFazio and Robinson face off for the fifth time.

Oregon has five Congressional Districts and Florence is included in District 4. District 4 represents the southern half of Oregon’s coastal counties including Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane and Linn counties and most of Benton and Josephine counties.

 Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio has represented District 4 since 1987 and is running for re-election this year. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon. He is the ranking member on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and is running against opponent Art Robinson.

Robinson has a Bachelor of Science degree from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California in San Diego. He is a well-known scientific and medical researcher, having worked with Linus Pauling co-founding the prestigious Institute of Orthomolecular Medicine.

He served as president, director and tenured research professor at the research facility after it was renamed the Linus Pauling Institute in 1971.


Why are you interested in representing Oregon District 4?

DeFazio: Most Oregonians are tired of partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington. And so am I. But I have a fire in my belly and a lot of good ideas about how we can make progress for the American people.

I would like the Congress to work together to improve health care, make investments in job-creating infrastructure programs and make college more affordable. I will work with the Trump White House or anybody else to meet those goals. But when I disagree with the president or my party I will use my voice and my vote to stand up for our Oregon values.

I have built seniority that puts me in position to be the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee if Democrats win the majority. I will be part of crafting an agenda that makes investments in our roads, bridges, ports and airports and creates jobs and strengthens the economy.

Robinson: I am running because I think I can do a good job. I have been successful in medical research and I have been a successful educator and scientist. Most importantly, I have been successful in the real world. Mr. DeFazio has served in congress for 40 years and he has no real-world experience.

As a scientist I am a problem solver. DeFazio does not want to solve the problems we face, he just wants to figure out how he can benefit from them. All he really cares about is making sure he gets re-elected.


What issues are you most concerned with at this time?

DeFazio: Many Oregonians are one serious health issue away from personal financial crisis. Quality affordable healthcare is the top concern of most Americans and a top priority for Democrats in Congress. It’s time to reduce healthcare costs by expanding coverage, protecting consumers, creating a public option outside of the for-profit insurance industry, and allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients.

Robinson: I am really concerned with improving access to medical care. There are estimates that as much as 20 percent of the earnings of real people go to paying for their medical costs and medical care. I have spent a lifetime working in the medical field and know we can make a lot of progress there. The economy has improved under President Trump and we need to take this opportunity to support the president’s initiatives to reform healthcare.

Again, Mr. DeFazio has no interest in providing good health care to people; all he wants to do is figure out a way to secure votes, while continuing to postpone meaningful changes to the healthcare system.


What are the most significant challenges facing the House this term?

DeFazio: If Democrats win the majority in the House, it will be a message from the electorate that they want Congress to uphold its constitutional duty to serve as a check on the Trump administration. As Chairman of the House Transportation Committee with oversight of the General Services Administration, I plan to investigate the president’s conflict of interest as  both the lessee and lessor of the Trump Hotel and White House involvement in the siting of a new FBI Headquarters.

It will be a challenge to find common ground legislatively, but I’m hopeful that we can come together in Congress to make a significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure to create good-paying jobs in construction, technology and engineering, and get the country’s economy moving.

I have three bipartisan infrastructure proposals — that are fully paid for and would not increase the deficit — that would invest over $500 billion in the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, transit systems, ports, harbors, and airports. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates or sustains 13,000 jobs.

I am also hopeful we can find common ground to reduce healthcare costs by expanding coverage, protecting consumers, creating a public option outside of the for-profit insurance industry, and allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients.

Robinson: Electing representatives that support the president. President Trump has done a great job fixing the economy and cutting taxes. But Mr. DeFazio opposes the president, not for his ideas or policies but as a partisan attack on the president.

I think it is very important that we elect representatives that support the president and his policies. Mr. DeFazio has opposed any changes that the president has wanted to make, not because of the policies, but as a way to make a partisan point.

He does this for votes, not because of what he believes.


Provide our readers with the major differences between your opponents and yourself

DeFazio: I supported the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicare to 150,000 people in my district. My opponent opposes expanding Medicare and making health care more affordable.

I support strengthening Social Security by lifting the cap and making all income subject to the federal payroll tax — a waiter shouldn’t pay a higher percentage of his or her salary to Social Security than a CEO of a corporation. My opponent wants to privatize Social Security and let Wall Street gamble with it.

I’ve always supported a woman’s right to choose and access the health care that she needs.

I stand with Planned Parenthood and have opposed efforts to defund this critical service. My opponent has said that he’s “rabidly pro-life” and has said that banning abortion is the most important issue in America.

I believe that the federal government can and should do more to invest in our students and schools by increasing K-12 funding, as well as affordable higher education opportunities. My opponent has consistently said that “the whole public-school system is child abuse” and that he thinks “public schools should be abolished.”

I am actively working in Congress to advance plans and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and address the dangers of a changing climate. My opponent believes that climate change is a myth and we should “Burn the coal fields” because we would benefit from the increase in carbon dioxide.

My opponent believes chronic radiation is good for your health.

I don’t.

Robinson: The main difference between Mr. DeFazio and myself, as I have said, is his lack of real-world experience and the fact that he doesn’t really want to solve problems, he wants to benefit from them.

He believes that big government can solve every problem by creating another tax. He has been more concerned with getting re-elected than in addressing the issues that Oregonians care about. He did nothing to save our timber industry when he had the chance.

He got money for the counties and did nothing to keep the industry alive. He did not solve the problem, he figured out how to benefit from the problem.

Every election he has given speeches to fix the VA (Veterans Affairs).  He has someone at his office take calls from vets needing help and he helps those individuals that call his office.

The problems our VA Department has could be fixed simply by issuing a medical card for all veterans. That card could be used at any medical facility, anywhere in the country. But he hasn’t done that because he doesn’t want to fix the problem, he just wants to get votes.


Please share anything else you feel is important for our readers to know about this election.

DeFazio: This is the most important election of our lifetime. I hope I have earned your vote for U.S. Representative to return to Congress and continue fighting for our shared priorities and values.

Robinson: We need to elect someone that has a fresh perspective on the problems that we face. It is also important to build on the positive steps made by President Trump and send individuals to the House of Representatives that will work with the president to implement his reform agenda.

I just want to say two words that are very popular across the country: “Term limits.”

There is a point where a congressman becomes unproductive, ineffective and complacent and I believe that Mr. DeFazio has reached that point.

Both Robinson and DeFazio are firm supporters of a strong educational component in the communities they serve. Robinson believes in school choice and home schooling as alternatives to the traditional government centered education program.

DeFazio has taken a different course, embracing the university system by channeling approved congressional pay raises into a scholarship fund for his constituents.



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