This month, we invited nine of the candidates vying to be Oregon’s next governor for interviews. The seat is open for the first time since 2015. Bob Tiernan is seeking the Republican nomination. He lives in Lake Oswego and works as a business consultant. He served in the Oregon Legislature in the 1990s and was chair of the Oregon Republican Party from 2009 to 2011. In 1994, he was a chief petitioner of Measure 11, which created mandatory minimum sentences for many violent crimes.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. In case you have missed our earlier shows this week, we have been having a series of one-on-one conversations with some of the most prominent candidates for Oregon governor. We turned to Bob Tiernan today. He is seeking the Republican nomination. Tiernan lives in Lake Oswego and works as a business consultant. He served in the Oregon Legislature in the 1990s. In 1994, he was a chief petitioner of Measure 11, which created mandatory minimum sentences for many violent crimes. And from 2009 to 2011, Tiernan served as the chair of the Oregon Republican Party. Bob Tiernan, welcome to Think Out Loud.
Bob Tiernan: Hey Dave, how are you doing?
Miller: Doing great, thanks for joining us. So in that short bio I just mentioned, we can tell it’s been a while since you’ve held elected office in Oregon. Why try to come back to it?
Tiernan: I have had a very successful career in both the Navy as a commander, in business, as president of some of the larger companies in Portland, Grocery Outlet. I’ve been president of several other companies and I’ve learned how to fix problems and I look at Oregon right now and what they’re suffering from, which is leadership and not solving their problems. I look at the homeless, I look at the crime, I look at the lawlessness and the riots, the garbage. We are looking in the Portland metro area, in many places, like a third world country. You come over the I-5 bridge from Washington. You see a boat that sunk. You see a car that’s going into the Columbia and you just see garbage. That’s the new ‘Welcome to Oregon’ sign. It’s got to end and those problems have to be solved. And that’s what’s motivating me to get back to my public life of solving problems for the state.
Miller: So let’s take on some of those issues that you just mentioned starting with homelessness. What role would you want to play as governor in terms of addressing homelessness in the state?
Tiernan: I think the governor has to be responsible for addressing the problem because it’s just not in the Portland Metro area. According to a 2020 poll and information, there’s about 5,000 homeless in the Portland Metro area, but there’s another 10,000 in the rest of Oregon. And when you try and move the homeless from one location to another, and those are campers, those are people who have no place to go. There are people who have just got here. There are people who are taking advantage of our measure 110 and the open drugs that we now have in Oregon where methamphetamines and heroin is perfectly legal to shoot up in the street. Those types of things have to be addressed statewide. Otherwise you’re playing whack a mole. You move them from one location, they pop up in another location. But the governor has a lot more resources. It has a lot more power and they are responsible for the safety and health of all Oregonians. And that’s why it is a statewide crisis. It’s a statewide problem. The governor has the ability to resolve it and we need a governor with the experience to solve that problem.
Miller: What specifically are you saying you would do?
Tiernan: I think the homeless specifically has a two part problem solving to it. The first part is short term, which is, we have to get the homeless off the streets, now. We are not solving any problems whatsoever by allowing the campers and the homeless to live in squalor on our streets, our parks, our open areas or the sides of freeways, on on-ramps. We’re not helping them. And that’s not the answer. So why are we allowing that to happen? Because we’re creating two and three and four more problems by letting them do that. So the short term is to move them off the streets, now. Move them to areas where you can set up temporary tents that have a roof, that have bathroom facilities, that have some kitchen facilities, that have some facilities to store some of the belongings and maybe provide some sort of health care, but letting the homeless live on our streets and create the garbage and the lawlessness that’s taking place because of their presence on the street and the garbage and the unsanitary conditions. It has to stop. It’s making Portland and the Portland metro area look like a third world country.
Miller: You said that’s the first part. What’s the second part?
Tiernan: The second part is a long term solution. Now the long term solution is always the harder one. But we know the short term solution has to be right because first letting them stay in the street is not a solution. All we’re doing is creating more problems. So the long term solution, it has to be setting up a group of five or six people. This is what I do, this is what I’ve done in business. This is what I’ve done in my military career. We take on and we solve difficult problems every week. It’s a skill that you learn. It’s an experience and you’ve got to have the experience to do it. You got to get the facts, you got to define the problem. You look for solutions, you set the plan, you hire and put on the right people. You set timetables, you have results that they must hit and you hold the people you put responsible, accountable for getting those. Now dialing up exactly what the long term solution is, it’s going to be part of having more long term homeless facilities. It’s going to be having some drug rehabilitation, it’s going to be having some mental, because there’s a large mental capacity. There’s a lot of just crazies out there who are on the street and that has to have a different solution to it. But it’s a multifaceted problem. There are no easy answers. But you know what? There are answers and that may take a longer time. And that’s why you have a longer term solution.
Miller: How much daylight do you see in your approach you just outlined and the approach of your Republican rivals in this primary? I’m asking because I don’t hear too much difference in what you’ve just been saying to what we heard yesterday and the day before.
Tiernan: Well, the difference is I’ve done it before.
Miller: By “it”, you mean solving complex problems? Or do you mean dealing with widespread homelessness?
Tiernan: Well, first off, I did pass a homeless bill in my committee 25 years ago, which was we got to treat them with compassion and what we do is we have to be careful what we do and how we do it, but we can’t allow them to live in squalor underneath bridges. That’s what happened 25 years ago. My experience of solving problems, I have the proven leadership to do it. They sound like me. I don’t know, they sound like me. Maybe they’ve been listening to me, but not allowing them to stay on the street, cleaning it up, getting your resources together, getting your options lined up, putting the right people on it, putting the action plan and holding them accountable, that takes experience. You don’t get to fly a Cessna 150 for three days and say, oh, now I can fly a Boeing 737. I’ve been flying Boeing 737s. I know how to solve these problems. I will do it and I will get it done. Look at my record. Even when I was in the legislature in the crime and corrections, I was chairman of the crime and corrections committee. We had lawlessness happening back in the early 90s and we solved it. And when we couldn’t solve some of the problems, what happened? We rolled it out to a Ballot Measure. I was chief sponsor of Ballot Measure 11 and Oregon became a safer place. You need that kind of results-oriented intensity and getting results. That’s what I do. There’s no guessing about whether I’m going to do it.
Miller: Bob Tiernan, hopefully you can still hear me. The theme of these conversations this week is just intermittent dropouts. Can you still hear me? No. Okay, we’re going to work on our connection with Bob Tiernan. Just as a reminder, he is a Republican candidate for Oregon Governor, former State Representative, former Chair of the Oregon Republican Party. Bob Tiernan, can you hear me? We are still working on our connection. This is just a reality of radio when almost everybody still is on some kind of computer connection. Bob Tiernan, I understand you can hopefully hear me now.
Tiernan: I can hear you now!
Miller: Excellent. I think that actually may have been a gigantic internet blip on our end. That’s what it looks like.
Tiernan: Murphy’s law sometimes follows all of us.
Miller: So I wanna turn to elections. Do you trust Oregon’s vote by mail system?
Tiernan: That’s a good question. The vote by mail is great for a lot of reasons. It serves a lot of different people well. It serves the military well who aren’t here, it serves those who are traveling for business, it serves those who are in long term care facilities and can’t leave their home. Do I prefer it over in-person voting? No, because the verification process is different. I think it was unfortunate that we’ve gone to the vote by mail. I think there is opportunity for more fraud. You can compare it to getting your driver’s license for the first time. You’ve got to go to the DMV. You’ve got to show who you are. You have to bring an envelope and show them your address and that you’re living there. A lot of that does not exist with vote by mail. Does it generally work? I’m sure it does but I also think there’s a lot of room for fraud and that’s a problem and I wish we would go back to our old system where vote by mail was the exception and not the rule.
Miller: You say there’s room for fraud, but when the late Republican Secretary of State, Dennis Richardson looked into the 2016 election in 2017, he found that there was one suspicious ballot, according to the Statesman Journal’s calculations, one suspicious ballot out of every 38,000 ballots cast or .002%. So what exactly is your concern?
Tiernan: Well, my concern is the verification of who is actually filling out the ballot and making sure that that ballot is getting there by the person who actually filled it out and mailed it. I’m sure we can have lots of studies. I’m sure right now we could have a study on I-5. How many people are going over the 65 mph? And I’m sure we’ll say there’s only a few. We really don’t know how many and because you don’t know what you don’t know, your question was, what do I think of vote by mail? I think it’s not as good as the in-person verification system. That’s a flawless system, dang near flawless. And so do I think there’s more problems with vote by mail? I think by definition, yes, there is.
Miller: Where does climate change fit in your list of concerns?
Tiernan: I’m concerned about climate change and I think there’s a good role for state government to play in climate change. I think we need to go about looking at how we can minimize the use of fossil fuels. I think there are ways that we can take action to prevent the use of fossil fuels, but at the same time, I think we need to be very concerned about how anything that we enact on the statewide level is going to impact the average Oregonian’s ability to work, to heat their homes and we have to be careful of what we do of the law of unintended consequences. So yes, climate change, we should always do everything we can to protect our climate, protect our great state of Oregon. But I think we’ve got to be careful how we do that.
Miller: Would you keep in place Governor Brown’s Executive Orders on climate change?
Tiernan: I’d have to go through them one by one. I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m an expert on all of her various orders. I disagree with many of them, like what she’s doing right now with letting prisoners out of our correctional facilities, but I’d have to go look at it one by one, and I’d take a close study of it before I would state whether I would override it or not.
Miller: Just briefly, how would you plan to appeal to liberals or progressives or non-Republicans or unaffiliated voters if you were to win the Republican primary?
Tiernan: I am a Republican, however I’m running to solve the state’s problems, and that’s not a Republican, Democrat, or Independent issue. The crime problems, the lawlessness that’s been going on with our riots in Portland, the homeless, the squalor that’s on our street. You know how Portland is darn near a ghost town now, the homelessness is spreading throughout the rest of the state and so is the crime. And a lot of that was happening in the early 90s and I helped resolve that. We need to fix our problems. We need to have some tough leadership and I don’t think it’s going to matter whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, if the people believe that I have the experience and the leadership ability to solve the problems that are bothering them, they will vote for me and I will solve those problems.
Miller: Bob Tiernan, thanks very much for joining us. I really appreciate your time.
Tiernan: Thank you.
Miller: That’s Bob Tiernan, Republican candidate for Oregon governor, former State Representative and chair of the Oregon Republican Party. Tomorrow on the show, we’re gonna talk with Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty who’s running for reelection along with her two most high profile challengers, Administrative Law Judge Vadim Mozyrsky and technology business owner Rene Gonzalez. Thanks very much for tuning in to Think Out Loud on OPB and KLCC. I’m Dave Miller. We’ll be back tomorrow.
Think Out Loud is supported by Steve and Jan Oliva, the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust, Ray and Marilyn Johnson and the Susan Hammer Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.
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