On the eve of the first debate between the two leading candidates for governor, the GOP challenger, Knute Buehler, is trying to make up a significant fundraising gap between himself and incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat.
A fundraising letter Buehler's campaign sent out recently included a line that caught the eye of alert recipients.
The letter listed a "long series of disappointments from Kate Brown." The last of the disappointments listed is "failed Cover Oregon websites."
Cover Oregon was the online health insurance portal the state of Oregon built to sign up new Medicaid patients following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare. From 2011, when lawmakers approved building Cover Oregon, until March 2015, when newly sworn-in Gov. Brown signed a bill officially abolishing it, the program failed spectacularly, at a cost of more than $300 million.
But the failure began and ended on the watch of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who served from January 2011 until Feb. 15, 2015, when he resigned. By the time of his resignation, Cover Oregon existed only as a political football being kicked back and forth between the state and the project's contractor, Oracle America, Inc.
Buehler's campaign spokeswoman, Monica Wroblewski, offers an explanation for the letter.
"Kate Brown was Secretary of State during the Cover Oregon fiasco, yet she never audited it," Wroblewski says. "As SOS, she was head of the audits division and responsible for finding waste and fraud."
Brown's campaign spokesman Christian Gaston scoffs at that explanation.
"Gov. Kate Brown abolished Cover Oregon and added accountability measures going forward," he says. "Buehler voted no. Once again he's lying about the governor in an effort to hide his own record."
In fact, while Brown served as secretary of state, her audits division commissioned an independent audit of Cover Oregon, which was published in March 2015, the month after Brown succeeded Kitzhaber as governor.