Eastern Oregon voters have an important say in two major state and federal races in this upcoming primary election.
Republicans have a full stable of candidates jockeying to challenge incumbent Governor Kate Brown in November. Democrats have lined up to make a case against U.S. Representative Greg Walden.
This plethora of candidates may show that the two entrenched incumbents are vulnerable. At the very least, it is proof that a number of people who disagree with them think so. Running for a position that requires significant financial resources and lots of travel across a large geographic space is no small task. And 13 people have signed up for that expensive, exhausting opportunity.
The two races have plenty in common, and plenty in opposition as well. But we include our endorsements in both races in one editorial for a clear reason: Democratic and Republican voters can either use the primary to pick a specialist and partisan who they may have more in common with, or they can choose the candidate who has the best chance to win a general election — and in the meantime bring the debate toward the middle.
In both races, we think the latter option is better.
Republican candidate for governor
When Knute Buehler declared his candidacy, he immediately became the favorite to challenge Gov. Brown in November. In the primary campaign, he has been largely absent in the media, in debates and large gatherings of voters. He has instead chosen to use his time for one-on-one campaigning, and to amass his war chest, which is crucial to winning any statewide race.
In his relative absence, both Greg Wooldridge and Sam Carpenter have made a little hay. Carpenter has run his “Make Oregon Great Again” campaign in the image of Donald Trump, surely a losing strategy in a state that Trump lost by 11 points in 2016 and where he is likely even less popular two years later.
Wooldridge has a stellar biography and found an interesting political niche, but Oregon voters have seen their share of out-of-nowhere Republicans with a great image get beaten handily by Democrats at the polls. David Stauffer, Jeff Smith and Bruce Cuff have failed to distinguish themselves.
For us, that means Buehler is the candidate to go forward and give Brown the best race. We already mentioned his significant financial backing, but there is also his statewide name recognition and his moderate voting record, a plus if he gets elected to lead the state alongside a Democratic Party-controlled Capitol.
If Republicans want the best chance to win the governorship in November, they should vote for Buehler this May.
If he gets the nod, we’re looking forward to hearing from him on the debate stage next to Gov. Brown.
Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative (Second District)
The overriding desire of most Americans in the 2018 election will be to rein in the power of Donald Trump. That can happen if the U.S. House and Senate switch to Democratic majorities — which now seems within the realm of possibilities thanks to the retirement of many Republican incumbents and the continuous swirl of controversy around the White House.
Perhaps realizing they may be surfing a wave of anti-Trump pushback, many Democrats filed to take on powerful incumbent Greg Walden.
But we think Democratic voters should stand behind Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who has the best chance to give Walden the toughest race.
She has worked hard to traverse the district, and distinguished herself both in debates and in personal discussions with voters. She has also avoided the pitfalls that can sink a Democratic candidate in a largely rural area. She is knowledgeable and supportive of using natural resources, but balances that well with environmental protection. She has made clear her support for gun rights, and has family ties that go back generations into the Eastern Oregon ranching community. Her history of government and non-governmental work, with an emphasis on professional ethics and efficient operation, seems like the right message to take to an interesting general election.
Jenni Neahring is an interesting candidate as well. The Bend doctor has a ton of knowledge and some good ideas about health care — and the ability to fundraise — but we’re not sure that would translate into enough votes come November. Jim Crary has some name recognition, having challenged but been beaten by Walden before, and we’re unconvinced anything has changed this time around. Tim White, Michael Byrne, Raz Mason and Eric Burnette make up the other four candidates.
In our opinion, McLeod-Skinner stood out among the crowded field as offering the Democratic candidate who would best appeal to Eastern Oregon voters. She would be up against it in November, but she has the best opportunity to upset the Walden applecart.