Before the political season really heats up, “Think Out Loud” sat down with the two most prominent candidates for Oregon governor for intimate one-on-one conversations about their lives. We didn’t talk much about politics, but instead focused on their families, their backgrounds, and their motivations. 

Knute Buehler

Knute Buehler

Michael Clapp/OPB

We spoke with Republican Rep. Knute Buehler on the back porch of his home in Bend in mid-July. Our conversation with his Democratic opponent is here.

Here are five things we learned about him:

He Learned About His Native American Roots As A Young Adult.

“My mom was … from Oklahoma originally. … Her father grew up on a Choctaw Indian reservation, spoke Choctaw and their history is a little bit fuzzy in our family. They didn’t really share that until I was in high school. … I think during my mom’s generation, that was something that, especially in Oklahoma, was not something that they really wanted to share. My mom always described her ancestry as ‘black Dutch,’ and then I came home one spring vacation from Oregon State and was looking through old photos, and I saw a picture of my grandma, and she very much looked Native American. So, I started asking more questions about it.”

Medical School In Baltimore Was An Eye-Opening Experience.

“I had never seen such serious problems and poverty in this country. I just never expected to see anything like that in the United States. … I think in my second year I helped deliver a baby that was addicted to crack cocaine. My third year, I remember coming in to a scene in the [Johns] Hopkins Hospital emergency room where there was a gun fight among teenagers right in the waiting room. And then my last year, we were seeing a lot of young men at that time with a new disease … that was the first leading edge of the AIDS epidemic. Those things were life-changing.”  

Republican state representative Knute Buehler's home in Bend, Oregon.

Republican state representative Knute Buehler’s home in Bend, Oregon.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

He Met His Wife In Anatomy Lab. 

“I think she gave me a colder shoulder than my cadaver to begin with, and our cadaver was very popular because it was a younger, male specimen, which had really good anatomy, so a lot of the medical students would come to our table to look at the anatomy of our cadaver. … Towards the end of the first year, despite that somewhat cold shoulder to begin with, we were at a party at the end of the year hosted by a professor and we went for a walk in a nearby tulip garden and talked and I think we talked for a couple of hours and I remember on that walk, I was like, ‘You know what? I think this is the person I’m going to marry.’ I was pretty certain right away.”

His Two Kids Have Different Attitudes About His Political Life.

“My son is particularly interested. He likes watching it and commenting and sometimes listening in on campaign calls, for example. My daughter, on the other hand, would rather just ignore the whole thing.” 

Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler's dog, Lily, at his home in Bend. 

Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler’s dog, Lily, at his home in Bend. 

Julie Sabatier/OPB

He Doesn’t Regret His Decision Not To Run For Governor In 2016.

“In my gut, I just wasn’t interested. I was very much enjoying learning and having a growing experience being in the legislature, understanding the complexity of the issues. My four years in the legislature I really feel is equivalent to getting a PhD in Oregon policy and politics, and I didn’t feel like I had quite achieved that PhD level in two years.”

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