Oregon's secretary of state has numerous important duties, but none more so than serving as the state's chief election official. It's a position that demands a nonpartisan, even-handed approach.
So it was telling to see a TV ad supporting incumbent Kate Brown that took her Republican challenger, Knute Buehler, to task for — brace yourself — being a Republican. Just to ensure that voters would be properly horrified, the ad included a photograph of Mitt Romney.
That smacks not only of partisanship, but also of desperation by Brown's camp, which knows it is facing a real challenge from Buehler, a candidate who is so moderate that he once sponsored a fundraiser for Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.
The red-flag waving over her opponent's GOP credentials lends credence to concerns that the former Democratic state Senate president and chief Democratic fundraiser still has partisan tendencies. It does not alter the fact that Buehler is the kind of moderate that many in the state have long hoped would make a reappearance in Republican leadership ranks.
Brown also criticizes Buehler for his lack of elected experience. That's true, but there seems to be little doubt that Buehler would be up to the task of serving in the state's second-highest elected office.
Buehler is a managing partner of a Bend-based surgical practice that has 180 employees and more than $35 million in annual revenue. His political credentials include helping to write a 1994 state ballot measure to reform campaign finance laws, and working (with former Democratic Secretary of State Phil Keisling) to qualify open-primary ballot measures for the ballot in 2006 and 2008.
Another of the secretary of state's chief functions is overseeing audits of state government, a task that Buehler says is not fully embraced by Brown. With the Democrats' longtime stranglehold on statewide office, there's something to be said for having audits managed by the loyal opposition, especially someone like Buehler, who seems willing to put the best interests of the state above the interests of himself and even his party (an increasing rarity these days).
We are convinced the Buehler would do more than provide lip-service to the idea of improving the business climate in Oregon. Brown touts her department's new online "one-stop shopping" feature where businesses can get answers and directions on dealing with various rules and regulations. Fair enough, but in truth, it's just a road map leading to the traffic jam created by the state's labyrinth of rules that are often cited as an impediment to business.
We think Buehler has a real passion for cutting through some of that red tape, especially in taking on the proliferation of administrative rules that are at the heart of the bureaucratic maze.
Buehler would bring an even-handed, intelligent approach to the job. Given the state's recent history of electing only Democrats to statewide office, it will take support from Democrats and independents alike for him to win this race. We think he deserves that support and encourage voters to elect Knute Buehler as Oregon's next secretary of state.
The office of commissioner of labor is primarily an administrative job, running the Bureau of Labor and Industries. It is nonpartisan, but often is the subject of partisan bickering because it involves the traditional friction between labor unions and employers. The bureau is responsible for enforcing civil rights and workplace laws and ensuring access to housing.
This year's campaign exemplifies that conflict. The incumbent, Brad Avakian, is a former civil rights lawyer and Democratic lawmaker. He's done a fine job in the office by all accounts, and it would take a compelling case to convince us he should be replaced. His challenger, State Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, hasn't made one.
Starr is a pro-business conservative whose supporters include Chambers of Commerce and business groups but no labor organizations. Avakian has the support of the state's major labor unions plus some businesses.
We recommend Brad Avakian for Oregon labor commissioner.