Back in September, long before most Oregonians were paying any attention to the 2016 Oregon gubernatorial election, Bud Pierce was already in the race. The Salem oncologist announced his run for the Republican nomination on the very first day he was able to do so. This is Pierce's first run for public office. He told Think Out Loud host Dave Miller that he was taking this dramatic turn in his career because, "It's time for new leadership."
Specifically, he says, homelessness and mental illness are two huge areas where government is failing.
Bud Pierce: Clearly the answer to homelessness and poverty and health and so many issues are jobs. And we tout our full employment but the reality is we have 1.5 million full time jobs, and we have 4 million citizens. And we have about a half a million part time jobs. Lots of people of working age aren't working. And the reality is and you and I know that for most people, the anchoring of a full time job gives that great stability to your life, a reason to your life. And that's probably the greatest failure of all.
Pierce says he believes economic development should involve creating private sector jobs, supporting small businesses with tax credits and loans, and providing true rehabilitation to those who need it — from mental illness to drug addiction — to get them to the point where they’re healthy enough to work. He says the mental health system isn’t viable enough to handle the demand for services:
Bud Pierce: If someone comes into my office with a cancer problem and they have an active mental health issue, it's very hard to find someone to help me. It's pretty much, go to the ER, or there's nothing for you. So what I would say is number one, is there really robustness in what's being transformed or is it more talk? And unfortunately, I would say it's more talk up to now …
The system isn't really robust enough. There really aren't practitioners that are out there that you can make a quick, easy referral and there's someone there to take care of the patient. That is tremendously lacking. It may be talked about but in the front lines and the trenches of providing care, it's very hard to find the service. There's [also] the issue of half our mental health budget is going to the state hospital and we really need to probably really get away from that because that centralizes it to a few patients, get it down to the communities, lots more coordination between states and counties.
And we need a lot more research. It's interesting. My wife and I were part of the Knight Cancer challenge, a great, one billion dollar fundraiser, [for] research in cancer. How about a $250 million psychiatric research center at OHSU so we can actually get some knowledge? Because there's so little effort and resources put into this, although it touches almost all of our lives. Half our prisoners have mental health issues, 70 percent of the youth authority, people have mental health issues. and suicide rates, those are almost all mentally ill people.
Dave Miller asked him why he’s running for the highest office in the state after a career in the military and in medicine, and never having held elective office.
Bud Pierce: Right now in America, 10 governors, out of 50 governors have never held political office … What I would say is, the bureaucracy is stable in government. That's not changing. We have a big bureaucratic government ... [so] ... what kind of leader do we need? Because the governor is there to oversee, motivate, stimulate the private sector, which is huge. To try to get agency reform and to try to get government working with the citizens and that's cooperation. And then to deal with the legislature. And I would say if you want to have real reform, real change, then you need to bring someone from the outside, to come in, who has shown competency in their private life, and then to allow them to do the change they can and then, frankly, go back out.
So, I'm going to be the Republican candidate who's going to come out, address these issues, present practical solutions, and remind people of the the great Republican party. The legacy of Republicans are: Lincoln; freedom; Roosevelt (Teddy), a Square Deal, a fair deal for the common man, woman and child; Mark Hatfield, the morality and sticking up a lot for rights of African Americans and opposing the war in Vietnam; and finally, Tom McCall, the great environmentalist governor. And that's the Republican party that I'm going to present to the voters...
We talked to Bud Pierce's primary opponent Allen Alley last week. Whomever wins will face the Democratic candidate, likely the current front runner, incumbent Kate Brown, who became governor when John Kitzhaber stepped down amid an influence-peddling scandal and federal investigation. The victor in the November election will serve out the remainder of what would have been former Governor John Kitzhaber's third term. Another election will be held in 2018 for the next four-year term of Governor.