In tight race, Brown and Buehler prepare for final gubernatorial debate

Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, answers a question during the Tuesday, Oct. 2 debate in Portland as Gov. Kate Brown looks on. The final debate between the candidates for Oregon governor is Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.

Tonight, Gov. Kate Brown and state Rep. Knute Buehler will participate in the final debate before voters send off their ballots for the Nov. 6 election to determine if Oregon gets a new governor.

It’s the last of three debates, the first two coming last week in Portland and Medford.

The most recent polling data suggests the candidates are essentially tied. But with 17 percent of likely voters still undecided, both have an opportunity to show Oregonians why they are the right choice.

One candidate who will not have that opportunity is Patrick Starnes of the Independent Party of Oregon. Starnes was excluded from the final two debates. However, he’s not going out without a fight, and plans to show up at the debate with supporters in an attempt to be a last-minute addition to the format.

While Starnes took the stage during the Oct. 2 debate at Roosevelt High School in Portland, the youth questioners had the choice of whether to direct their questions to all three candidates or just Brown and Buehler.

Most questions were directed to Brown and Buehler. Starnes, though, was not discouraged and often sneaked in brief responses.

On Monday, Starnes’ campaign sent out a news release calling for a protest of the debate, being held at KGW’s southwest Portland studio. The debate is organized by KGW and The Oregonian/OregonLive.

In Starnes’ news release, he said KGW staff told him that a poll showed him at 4 percent, and the cutoff for the debate is 10 percent.

Amara Moon, a volunteer staffer for Starnes’ campaign, said that’s partly because Starnes’ publicity has been stymied by debate organizers such as KGW.

“If he had been given equal time to this point, his polling would be different,” she said, adding KGW declined to give details on the poll it cited.

“They are making up their own little criteria,” Moon said. “It doesn’t seem right. Oregonians want to hear from all candidates.”

Starnes points to voters affirming the Independent Party of Oregon as a third major party in 2015 and about a third of registered voters in Oregon being unaffiliated with the Republican and Democratic parties.

“This status allows the Independent party to participate in state funded primary elections just like the other two major parties,” the news release states. “It should also mandate its inclusion with equal participation in all debates.”

Moon said Starnes will show up at the TV studio around 6 p.m., and hopes to have at least 50 supporters with him.

Tuesday’s debate will feature questions from the public submitted to moderators. It will start at 7 p.m. and run an hour. Questions will be fielded by both candidates, and the debate will air live on KGW.

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Reporter Aubrey Wieber: aubrey@salemreporter.com or 503-375-1251. He is a reporter for Salem Reporter working with the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of the Pamplin Media Group, EO Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

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