March 20th, 2012 11:40 am | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Politics, PDX Votes

Buehler Accuses Brown of "Machine-Style Politics": Updated

Knute BuehlerDr. Knute Buehler -

Dr. Knute Buehler, the Bend surgeon who is challenging incumbent Secretary of State Kate Brown, blasted her this morning in an interview with WW.

Buehler is upset about Brown's last minute decision to push the Labor Commissioner's race from the May election to the November ballot. Both incumbent commissioner Brad Avakian (who is a Democrat) and State Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) expected to face each other in May.

Buehler and other Republicans think Brown's decision may have been motivated by a desire to help Avakian, a fellow Democrat who is expected to fare better in a high-turnout general election in November than he would in May.

"I think its just another example of how politics is being used by our current Secretary of State for partisan advantage," Buehler told WW. "There’s a candidate who’s in danger of losing in May, so they reinterpret the law to help him. That’s not how we should do things in Oregon."

Buehler, who hopes to succeed Brown as the state's top elections officer, says Brown is doing a poor job of inspiring confidence in the electoral process.

"She’s trying to overthrow years a of precedent for how non-partisan races are held," Buehler says. "There's nothing in [statute] that shows the precedent should be changed. Changing the rules mid-stream is not fair to voters."

Starr says he only learned of Brown's decision indirectly on Friday. Avakian's campaign manager said he learned of the decision when contacted by WW on Monday.

Updated at 4:00 pm

Brown issued this statement this afternoon:

"State Senator Bruce Starr has filed a lawsuit against me as Oregon’s Secretary of State. While attorneys usually ask we not comment on pending litigation, I refuse to stay silent. The allegations about my character are outrageous and unfounded. The decision to elect Oregon’s Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries in November 2012 was made by the Oregon Legislature in 2009. Nearly three years ago, long before anyone knew who would be on the ballot, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2095. In Section 22a of the bill it clearly states that the next BOLI Commissioner would be elected in November and for a two-year term. This is a unique statute that created a shortened term with a one-time application that speaks for itself. This is an issue of election law, not politics. Those who would try to score political points at the expense of questioning what is very clear as a matter of law are doing a disservice to democracy. I take my job as Secretary of State very seriously and treat all candidates for office fairly and equally, without regard to party affiliation. I dedicate every day to doing my job to the best of my ability by serving all Oregonians, and ensuring fair, accurate and transparent elections. Allegations to the contrary are offensive and false."
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