Faye Stewart II has a big challenge ahead of him. He's running in the Republican U.S. Senate primary and hopes to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the fall.
Stewart is a Lane County commissioner from Cottage Grove and part of the family that built one of Oregon's largest forest products companies, Bohemia Lumber. There's even a state park in Washington County named after his uncle, former state Rep. L.L. "Stub" Stewart.
And earlier this month, at a March 10 candidate forum at George Fox University in Newberg, Stewart told the crowd that Vietnamese refugees in Portland once "harvest[ed] people's dogs and cats" to feed themselves.
"Our government housed them in buildings in the Portland area—my understanding—and what ended up happening was is they didn't know how to heat their homes," Stewart said at the forum.
The former president of the Vietnamese Community of Oregon, De Tran, says these are old stories being brought up again in a new context.
"In Vietnam, dog is not a pet like here," says Tran. "So people in Vietnam eat dog."
But Tran says refugees didn't bring that practice with them. "When the Vietnamese immigrants came over in different programs sponsored by the government, we adapted," he says.
Tran says it would be extremely unusual for a Vietnamese person in Portland to eat dog meat.
Stewart told us via email that his remarks about Vietnamese people in Portland were in reference to the Syrian refugee crisis. "I received my information from a very close friend that lived in Portland that witnessed the items I referred to," he wrote.
But he regrets mentioning it at the candidate forum. "I'm very sorry I made that reference as I never intended it to be hurtful or cause harm," Stewart says.
He also feels like the video of his comments has been taken out of context, saying:
Lana Co, current president of the Vietnamese Community of Oregon, says her organization has received information about Stewart's comments.
"As a commissioner," she told us via email, "he should not make a stereotype comment."
"We do not know where he gets the information about our community but that does not represent us as a whole," says Co.