Despite strong opposition from political newcomer Dr. Knute Buehler, a Republican, incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown won a surprisingly easy victory tonight. Brown leads Buehler, 51 percent to 44 percent.

Brown, the former Senate majority leader, drew on strong support from public employee unions and other allies she's built over her 20-year political career.

Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon from Bend who'd advocated for campaign finance reform and open primaries, got off to a strong fundraising start last year. Despite a compelling personal story—he's a former Oregon State baseball player and Rhodes Scholar—he failed to catch fire.

The presence of two minor-party candidates in the race—Seth Woolley of the Pacific Green Party, who also ran in 2008, and Bob Wolfe of the Progressive Party—threatened to siphon off enough votes from Brown to boost Buehler's chances.

But in the end, that didn't happen. Brown now has the chance to prove to the dozen newspapers around the state who endorsed her opponent that she can re-energize an office that underperformed in her first term.

As for Buehler, the question is whether he's one-and-done like 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley or whether he'll build on his experience to help bolster Republicans' short list of future candidates.