Independent Party nominee Patrick Starnes has run a strong campaign with grace, grit and determination. But until we change our voting system – for instance to ranked choice style – I understand that the purpose of independent swing voters in statewide races is to first determine if there is a compelling reason to vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate. If not, then consider voting for a third party candidate who stands for an important issue in order to send a message to the political establishment.
Oregon local and state governments are facing a generational fiscal crisis. Kate Brown and Knute Buehler offer two very different ways to deal with the crisis. The leader we chose is going to impact Oregon’s schools, healthcare, our economy and housing affordability for years to come. Consequently in the race for Governor independent voters must focus on the choice between Buehler and Brown and the paths they offer.
Governor Brown’s solution consists of maintaining the status quo on management and spending and using tax increases to make up for revenue shortfall. Knute Buehler’s solution is to first demand improved management and cost controls in the delivery of government services and reasonable fair and legal PERS reforms. Only then would he consider new revenues. While Mr. Buehler hasn’t proposed specific revenue reforms or increases, influential organizations representing Oregon business have promised to support increases if Democrats agree to key spending reforms. Neither candidate would change Oregon’s liberal positions on social issues. They have no choice in any event given our Democratic legislature.
The real decision for voters this election is between the same fiscal path the Democrats have charted for Oregon over the past decade, or a new one proposed by a new leader. Independent voters should choose a new leader and a new fiscal path. A path that starts with improved management of current resources, preserves vital programming, improves education and then if necessary seeks new revenue based on shared sacrifice with everyone paying their fair share.
Electing a moderate Republican governor to work with a Democratic Legislature is not new to Oregon. In fact it’s a formula that has worked very well in the past. Republican Governor Tom McCall and Republican Governor and Senator Mark Hatfield were both moderate to liberal and both highly successful leaders who worked well with largely Democratic Legislatures during what is now considered Oregon’s golden age.
Similar to McCall and Hatfield, Buehler is socially accepting, pro choice, and environmentally sensitive. Fiscally he is more conservative than Democratic legislative leaders of course and one may wonder how he will work with our more liberal Democratic Legislature. I have no concerns. Looking around our country you’ll find that the Governors with the highest approval ratings are moderate Republicans in the Liberal States of Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont. And don’t forget, during Oregon’s political golden age, Republican Governors and Democratic legislature passed the bottle bill, the beach bill and established the Land Conservation and Development Commission.
If you believe that the best way to restructure Oregon’s fiscal structure is to stay on our current path, keep the same management in place , maintain the status quo on spending and deal with our revenue shortfall by increasing taxes, then Governor Brown won’t disappoint. (at least until you find out that Intel and Nike have been exempt from any new tax increase). But if you prefer a socially accepting Governor who will hold state management accountable, impose fiscal discipline, protect vital programs, work for educational excellence and only then asks for shared sacrifice from all taxpayers, then Knute Buehler is the only choice.
This opinion is my own and doesn’t reflect the position of any organization.