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. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in the living room of Mahonia Hall, the governor's official residence in Salem.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in the living room of Mahonia Hall, the governor’s official residence in Salem.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

We spoke with the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Kate Brown, in the living room at Mahonia Hall, the official governor’s residence in Salem. Our conversation with her Republican opponent is here

Here are five things we learned about Brown:

She Was Raised Republican.

“My parents were avid Republicans. My mother was an active campaign volunteer for our local legislator. … I don’t know that I was active, but I would certainly say [I was an] outspoken supporter of the Republican party at the time. … I am the oldest of four kids, and my parents encouraged a very active dinner table discussion and yes, we certainly talked about politics all the time. … I think for me the real break came when I left home and went off to college.” 

She Almost Went Down A Very Different Path In Life.

“I was volunteering at the local women’s health center, the Portland Feminist Women’s Health Center … working to make sure that women and their partners could get into the clinic safely because protesters were either barricading or harassing them going into the clinic. … I spent a couple of years there volunteering. … But the job I first had following law school, my first job was at the Portland Feminist Women’s Health Center. I decided I did not want to practice law, and I was going to go work at the clinic and help coordinate volunteers and be an advocate for the women at the clinic. … I got laid off on the first day.”

The front door of Mahonia Hall, the governor's official residence in Salem.

The front door of Mahonia Hall, the governor’s official residence in Salem.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

Coming Out As Bisexual Was Complicated.

“I think the challenge with being bi or pan is that the dominant culture sees this as a choice, and it’s hard to explain to people that this is not a choice. This is who I am and I know that. And so I’ve had conversations with family members; I’ve had conversations with supporters that this is who I am and my marital status doesn’t change that.”  

Being A Stepmother Has Been A Bit Of A Rollercoaster.

“I think everyone who thinks they want to be a stepparent ought to really talk to people who’ve actually been there. It can be incredibly painful, and it can be filled with amazing joy. It taught me a lot I have to say. … You’re not a parent but sort of functioning in a parent role. You can’t be a friend but you can be a confidant, maybe. So, how do you find that mix? It was a challenge. We’ve done OK. The kids are really doing well and I’m very proud of them.”

Mahonia Hall is the governor's official residence in Salem.

Mahonia Hall is the governor’s official residence in Salem.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

She’s Still Not Sure What Former Gov. John Kitzhaber Was Thinking.

Brown doesn’t know exactly what happened when her predecessor asked her to come back from a conference on the East Coast in 2014, shortly before he resigned.

“We had a meeting and a very bizarre conversation. He said, ‘Why are you here?’ and we went on to have a long conversation about state government. And I left the meeting. … I can only assume what happened is that he changed his mind. … It felt surreal.”

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