OPB asked all 34 candidates seeking the Republican or Democratic nomination for governor to answer some basic questions on the issues. Below are responses from Brandon Merritt, a Republican. These answers have not been edited.
To start, please give us your name and basic biographical details, including your current position or job, any elected offices you have held and any key facts you would like voters to know about you.
Brandon Merritt is 32, and lives in Bend with his wife and two daughters.
Why should you be Oregon’s next governor?
I believe I am the best suited candidate to bridge the gaps that have formed between Oregonians.
What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing Oregon today?
Our education system is in a crisis. We rank 49th in graduation rates, and half of 3rd graders can’t read.
What is your proposed solution to that problem? Please be specific.
I am offering Oregonians $7500 tax credits if they pull their children out of public schools. The point of this is not to defund our public schools, but to create competition and force school districts to improve their offerings. Additionally, we will be refocusing academics away from CRT, SEL, CSE, and other ‘woke’ agendas and back onto universal skills to provide our children the best chance of success in their lives, no matter how they choose to live them.
Do you believe human beings are playing a part in rising temperatures?
Do you think Oregon should take additional steps to address climate change? If so, what are some specific efforts you’d undertake or push for as governor?
I think Oregon should be taking additional steps to mitigate the impact of disasters of all kinds, weather-related and not.
Oregon has experienced a high number of severe wildfires in recent years. What role should state government play in wildfire response?
As long as humans have lived on this continent, they have been managing the forests. There is no such thing as “unspoilt wilderness”, and our recent attempts to create it has been a disaster. Landowners, including private, tribal, state, and federal, must actively care for the land under their control. We have allowed the land to go fallow for decades, and we are reaping the results right now, in the form of large, destructive fires.
Parts of Oregon now routinely face drought conditions. What role should state government play in preventing and responding to droughts?
We need to construct new, multi-year water storage reservoirs to meet the needs of farmers, fish, and recreation.
Do you support the use of body cameras by police officers to record their interactions with the public? Please explain why or why not.
Yes, body cameras reduce the number of “he-said/she-said” incidents. In many cases, we no longer need to take the word of police officers on faith, because we can see exactly what they did. Overall, I think body cameras have been beneficial for community relations.
President Joe Biden signaled in his State of the Union address that he wants to increase funding for police. Do you agree or disagree?
In surveys, Oregonians on both the right and the left described political extremism as one of the biggest challenges facing the state. Do you agree with them? If yes, please describe the type of extremism that concerns you and what you would do as governor to address it.
I agree. The type of extremism that concerns me most is the kind that has acquired institutional power in recent decades, and which is concerned with imposing ideologically-driven utopian ideas onto the rest of society, no matter the consequence. The kind of extremists who have been trying to ban diesel fuel, ban animal husbandry, defund police, and dismantle our electrical grid.
In surveys, Oregonians consistently rate homelessness and high housing costs as a major problem facing the state. What role do you believe state government should play in addressing these interconnected problems?
The state government created those crises through its actions and policies. We need to reform our decades-old land use laws, and we need to make smaller towns and rural areas more attractive for businesses to open and expand, to provide the jobs that people need in order to live in less-crowded areas.
Would you support requiring people experiencing homelessness to stay in shelters if adequate shelter space exists?
Oregon’s high school graduation rate continues to lag behind other states. What are specific actions you would take as governor to improve student performance?
Supporting school choice, and supporting alternatives like private, charter, and homeschooling. This will make school boards and superintendents more responsive to student needs. We also need to make efforts to attract and retain high-quality teachers, and empower them to do their jobs.
Oregon, like much of the rest of the nation, has a child care crisis. What role should the governor play in this situation, and what are specific steps you would take as governor?
My proposed $7500 tax credit could be used to help pay for childcare.
Do public employee unions have too much influence in Oregon? If you answer yes, please tell us which unions in particular concern you.
Yes. In particular, AFSCME, OEA, and SEIU.
As governor, would you support the creation of campaign finance limits in Oregon? If no, please explain why not. If yes, please can us specifics on what limits you would endorse.
Oregon already has campaign finance limits in the Constitution.
Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election?
Would you support creation of a sales tax in Oregon?
Do you support the use of tolls to help pay for infrastructure constructions in the Portland region, including a replacement for the Interstate 5 bridge?
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, would you as governor push for new abortion restrictions in Oregon? If yes, please specify what type of restriction you would propose.
I would seek to put the question of late-term abortions to the voters in a referendum. Right now, Oregon law permits a mother to get an abortion right up until the moment of birth, long past the point of viability.
How would you describe the relationship between rural and urban Oregon today?
Awful, but that’s nothing new. Portland’s lopsided control over the state government, and its complete ignorance of rural communities, is a perennial source of frustration for the other 95% of the state.
What’s one thing you would do as governor to bring rural and urban Oregon together?
We need to devolve power back to the counties. Oregon is too large and too diverse for a single set of policies to work everywhere. Let Portland be Portland, and let Burns be Burns.
What’s the best thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?
She’s been so awful that she may have paved the way for the first Republican Governor in nearly 40 years.
What’s the worst thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?
At the risk of falling victim to recency bias, her pandemic response was an absolute disaster.
Name another Oregon leader, either current or in the past, whose approach to public policy you admire and why.
Charles McNary, because he was one of the principal supporters of the Bonneville dam project.