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Candidates In Oregon's Top Election Race Building War Chests


Candidates for Oregon's next governor Knute Buehler and Kate Brown.

Candidates for Oregon’s next governor Knute Buehler and Kate Brown.

Michael Clapp/OPB

An election to choose Oregon’s next governor is more than a year away and the primary is eight months down the road, but the main Democratic and Republican candidates’ fundraising is already going full steam, with a total of almost $2.4 million raised so far.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, is shrugging off the $500,000 donation Nike co-founder Phil Knight gave in August to her Republican rival, Knute Buehler, a member of the Oregon House of Representatives.

“Just to give you an example of the fund-raising efforts we do: In my 2016 campaign, we received 20,000 contributions from folks across the United States,” Brown said Tuesday when The Associated Press asked her about Knight’s donation and her own fund-raising efforts. “I think it’s really important that many voices be heard, and that one megaphone doesn’t drown out all the other voices.”

When the billionaire Knight’s donation was announced, Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon from Bend, said in a statement that he was “thrilled.”

“Phil Knight looks beyond narrow political labels — and so do I,” added Buehler, a moderate who has pushed for access to birth control and who voted in favor of an anti-coal bill that doubled the state’s renewable energy requirements.

Brown’s campaign has reported raising $1,250,146 cash contributions since Jan. 1, according to figures compiled by the Oregon Secretary of State. More than 10,000 contributions have been made since Jan. 1, said Brown campaign consultant Thomas Wheatley.

Though the Buehler campaign’s fund-raising dates back to only Aug. 3, when he announced his candidacy, the contributions it has reported already amount to $1,132,726, the Secretary of State’s office’s data show. The campaign has received 2,887 contributions since Aug. 3, said Rebecca Tweed, Buehler’s campaign manager.

Brown finds herself in the rare situation of having to run for governor twice in two years.

She shifted over from being Oregon’s secretary of state to governor on Feb. 18, 2015, when John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-peddling inquiry. She then had to run in the 2016 primary and election to fill the remaining two years of Kitzhaber’s term, handily beating Bud Pierce, the Republican nominee who is a Salem oncologist.

Now she has to do it all over again.

But both Buehler and Brown might be experiencing a bit of deja vu. They ran against each other for secretary of state in 2012. Brown won, with 863,656 votes to Buehler’s 727,607.

Oregon Public Broadcasting said on Aug. 3 that one of the big questions to keep in mind during the early stages of the gubernatorial race is: “Can Buehler revive the Republican money machine?”

So far, the answer seems to be yes.

Having a deep campaign chest, though, doesn’t always translate into victory.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron Saxton in 2006 and Chris Dudley in 2010 both out-raised their Democratic rivals, Oregon Public Broadcasting noted.

And both lost.

Kate Brown Knute Buehler 2018 elections governor

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