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Salem doctor to run for governor in Republican primary

Bud Pierce entered the race for governor recently with the hope of breaking an almost 30-year losing streak for Republicans.

Pierce is staking out an ideological stance that could put him at odds with more conservative members of his party.

“You have to be who you are,” the 58-year-old Salem doctor said.

Pierce is the first candidate to file his papers with the Oregon Secretary of State, and he was making his way around the state this week to announce his candidacy.

The last time a Republican governor was in office was 1987, when Vic Atiyeh finished his term.

Pierce said he decided to get into the race after former State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, lost last year to Gov. John Kitzhaber, who subsequently resigned amid a growing scandal over his fiancee’s role in his administration.

A Christian, Pierce doesn’t support a Kentucky county clerk’s stance of refusing to marry homosexuals because of her religious beliefs.

“Do your job as told,” he said. “She was told to issue wedding licenses. When she refused, she was put in jail.”

Pierce said he believes in creating a “great society” that includes both gays and straights. One of his colleagues at his medical office is gay, he said.

He said he holds a strong belief in searching for peace over issues and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Pierce describes himself as a “blue-collar kid” who attended public schools, bagged groceries at an Air Force base market and has never run for office.

At the age of 5, he said he vowed to become a doctor.

A cancer doctor, Pierce was born in Germany when his father was stationed there after World War II and met his German mother.

“Immigration clearly is what made America great,” he said. “It helps make society vibrant.”

Pierce said he believes that the U.S. should work to give legal status to the many immigrants who are here illegally. He cited the amnesty program that former President Ronald Reagan signed into law that provided legal status to almost 3 million people.

Pierce also doesn’t like the idea of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which is a popular notion among more conservative members of his party.

Oregon has embraced the Affordable Care Act, and Pierce said he also supports it, though he acknowledges it needs some tweaks.

“People need to have insurance coverage,” he said. “Everybody needs to have insurance coverage.”

Pierce said the state needs a strong focus on mental health issues as well as providing services to treat physical problems. And, he said the state needs to make a better effort to tackle one of the biggest physical health issues facing the state — obesity.

Where Pierce will strike a chord with conservatives is his positions on improving the Oregon economy, and particularly the economy of more rural areas of the state.

“It’s hard to get anything done to advance our prosperity,” he said.

He said legislators and the governor need to listen closely to the business community and find out what it thinks is needed to boost the economy of the state.

Although many are calling for a sharp increase in Oregon’s minimum wage, Pierce said he thinks the current minimum wage is fine. He said increasing it would be a mistake and could seriously jeopardize many small businesses and potentially lead to fewer people being employed.

“We have the second-highest minimum wage, and we’re not that prosperous,” Pierce said.

Pierce said that if he becomes governor, he would place a hiring freeze on state departments. As people retire, the staffing levels would decrease and more money would be available for programs, he said.

At the same time, he said he wants government, including the Legislature and the governor’s office, to work more for the residents of Oregon.

Pierce said Oregon’s government isn’t working well, and as a result many social programs, including education, have suffered.

“To me, this is about taking care of people,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

Bud Pierce