Race for Governor heats up — sort of

Candidate Knute Buehler at a committee meeting in January

Buehler catches Wooldridge in primary race. 

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In our March profile of Knute Buehler, we likened the Republican gubernatorial candidate to Ferris Bueller for his absence from the political spotlight.

Well, Buehler seems to have shown up for class.

The orthopedic surgeon from Bend squeezed a narrow victory from his leading contender, retired Navy Aviator Greg Wooldridge, in the latest straw poll conducted by the Washington County Republican Party.

The final tally showed Buehler: 24, Woolridge: 23.

Related Story: Buehler…? Buehler…? Buehler?

Sam Carpenter, a self-styled Oregon version of Donald Trump who promises to “make Oregon great again,” earned 16 votes.

Reached by phone last week, Buehler said the primary was  “a process, not an event. People will get a better idea who I am and what I stand for.”

Buehler said his priorities are fixing underfunded public schools, lowering taxes and reforming the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), which he called “a ticking time bomb.”

Oregon’s pension woes showed up on the front page of the New York Times last Sunday. The article was titled “A $76,000 monthly pension: Why States and Cities are Short on Cash.”  

“Our state budget has never been bigger,” Buehler says, “while housing healthcare, schools, transportation are much worse.”

Buehler faces stiff competition from Wooldridge, who claims he is “head and shoulders above Knute.”

Describing himself as a pragmatist, Wooldridge said his “strong stance on business,” will energize Democrats and undecided voters. He promised to cut back on “red tape,” lowering taxes and streamlining permitting rules.

He also touted his experience budgeting for a large Navy Jet Base—which included hospitals, schools, housing and agriculture. 

“It’s a process, not an event,” Buehler says. “People will get a better idea who I am and what I stand for.”

Confidence aside, the candidates have their work cut out for them.

Republicans face huge hurdles, says Sen. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), including Brown’s incumbency advantage and a union-backed funding machine.

The latest polls, conducted in February, put Brown a few percentage points ahead of Buehler.

Related coverage: Ferris Bueller vs. Knute Buehler

Both Republican candidates are touring the state this week. Wooldridge says he needs another $75,000 in funding to wrap up the campaign. Buehler is visiting Eugene before heading up to Portland.

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