EDITORIAL: Buckle up, Oregon, the governor’s race is for real

May 18–Tuesday’s primary was a test not just of candidates, but of voters: Could Oregon Republicans detach themselves from social-issue litmus tests and support the one Republican candidate for governor who stands a chance of winning in November?

The answer is yes. In a decisive victory, Republican voters chose Bend legislator Knute Buehler, a pro-choice doctor who favors reasonable gun control measures and has openly criticized President Donald Trump as their nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Voters wisely set aside any differences they may have with his moderate social stances and selected him over opponents toeing hyper-partisan positions that are out-of-touch with most Oregonians and sunk their chances of statewide office in recent years.

While hardcore Democrats might disagree, Buehler’s win benefits Oregonians as a whole. His legislative background and understanding of Oregon’s most pressing problems gives him the credibility and fluency to force Brown into a higher-level discussion of issues than other candidates could have. And Oregonians deserve substantive, informed debate between our gubernatorial candidates on how to prop up Oregon’s K-12 educational system, pay down its daunting public pension debt, reform its foster-care system, identify long-term health-care funding and any number of such issues that need attention now.

Specifically, Buehler is bringing forward game-changing ideas that warrant greater discussion, even if they may not ultimately be the right solution. Among them: negotiating a statewide teachers contract instead of district-by-district agreements; limiting public pension payouts to future recipients to $150,000 a year and transitioning new public employees to a 401(k) type program; pushing greater innovation in Oregon’s Medicaid networks and pressing for more fully integrated physical and mental health services.

And voters should hear what visionary strategies Brown is proposing on those fronts as well. Facing only nominal competition in the Democratic primary, Brown hasn’t had to defend her record or articulate a clear vision for what she could do in another term as governor.

Buehler, like Brown, isn’t immune to attention grabbing stunts, however, such as his call for Brown to use next week’s special session to address teachers contract provisions that make it easier for employees with misconduct allegations to escape detection. He’s correct that legislators must fix state laws to shore up student safety — and addressing a ridiculous law that can prevent districts from alerting other districts of substantiated misconduct by a teacher should be at the top of the list. But using Brown’s already unnecessary special session to address issues beyond the governor’s proposed tax break legislation, only threatens to turn this special-session sideshow into an all-out circus.

While both campaigns will likely have their share of such diversions, Oregonians should feel hopeful that Buehler and Brown will use these next few months to engage in real debate that reveals vision, ideas, priorities and character. They should listen for how each would address the precariousness of our fiscal, education, revenue, health care and housing systems. And they, like Republican voters in their primary, should recognize all a candidate has to offer rather than base support on only one issue or another.

True competition forces everyone to be better. Oregonians need Brown and Buehler to show them their best.

This article provided by NewsEdge.