In Endorsements, Oregon Newspaper Editorial Boards Disagree on Whether President Trump Should Factor Into Governor’s Race

"You guys endorsed Hillary Clinton," The Oregonian Editorial page editor, Laura Gunderson, told WW news editor Aaron Mesh. "How’d that work out for ya?"

The state's major newspapers disagree about who should be elected governor.

Willamette Week believes incumbent Democrat Kate Brown is Oregon's best bet at resisting the Trump presidency. The Oregonian's editorial board says national issues shouldn't factor into the race, and that GOP Rep. Knute Buehler deserves your vote.

WW's news editor Aaron Mesh and The Oregonian's editorial page editor Laura Gunderson debated endorsement selections yesterday on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud.

(The Mail Tribune's Gary Nelson also weighed in. His paper did not endorse at all in the governor's race, citing the lack of wildfire prevention plans from either candidate.)

Gunderson said education and the state's retiree-pension liability are priorities that Brown has failed to address.

"I think that both candidates are flawed," she said on OPB yesterday. "But I feel like we saw more solid plans with Knute Buehler."

In WW's endorsement, we acknowledged that "Brown has struggled to make a dent in the structural problems that afflict Oregon," while pointing out a number of ways in which we disagree with Buehler (his support for the overturn of an Oregon immigrant-sanctuary law and his incoherent plan for ending homelessness). We also noted that Beuhler had failed to separate himself from President Trump to our satisfaction, and noted: "Brown's re-election would give Oregon its best hope of remaining a bulwark of resistance against the culture of misogyny, cruelty and deceit (intellectual and otherwise) that characterizes Trump's regime."

When Think Out Loud host Dave Miller asked why Oregonians should consider national politics when voting for governor, a spirited debate was sparked.

Read a transcript of the exchange below, and find a link to the full segment here. As well, listen to our brief endorsement podcasts to get caught up with what's on the ballot.

OPB: Why should Oregon voters make their decision for governor based on the level of resistance that's centered in Salem?

Aaron Mesh (WW): I think they should make that decision because we are living in dangerous times. We're living in a moment in which ethno-nationalism is on the rise—both at the federal level and in the local streets. You see bands of what are basically fascist gangs roaming the streets of Portland. And I don't think that we can take place in a vacuum and not acknowledge that when making our endorsements. Kate Brown is a deeply flawed governor. Knute Buehler is an untested politician and we don't think that he's separated himself fully enough from the president of the United States, which is a dangerous presidency.

OPB: Laura, why is it you don't think we should take that national picture into account?

Laura Gunderson (The Oregonian): I think it's more dangerous for Oregonians that we have so many problems in our schools. We have, you know look, if we had kids graduating, more of our kids graduating; if we weren't at the bottom of the heap when it comes to high school graduation rates; if we had PERS under control, the $22 billion unfunded liability; if we had programs in place that we knew, especially if we were facing a recession, that that was going to be under control; if we had fewer general fund dollars going out the door to pay for PERS, meaning that we won't have money for addiction services, mental health services, affordable housing; if we had all these issues tied up better with a little red bow, sure. Great. Kate Brown, go out and deal with these. But we don't. We need to focus on Oregon. We have congressional leaders who can do more at the federal level to address these problems. No I think that whoever is the leader of Oregon should be focused on our state. We have so many problems right now. We can't afford to look outside.

Mesh (WW): But Laura, with respect, I remain troubled that your organization in 2016 didn't endorse in the presidential race [The Oregonian chose not to endorse either Trump or Clinton]. At what point does the national story become part of The Oregonian's considerations?

Gunderson (The Oregonian): So you guys endorsed Hillary Clinton. How'd that work out for ya?

Mesh (WW): We lost. And you didn't do anything. So we actually have something to stand on. We can look back with pride.

Gunderson (The Oregonian): (talking at the same time) The fact is, we have found academic research that the higher up the ticket you go there's just not impact. We focus on those issues where we feel like we can have impact. In fact, right now, we have our focus on education and we have it on PERS. And we feel like that's the responsible thing to do for Oregonians.

Mesh (WW): We feel the responsible thing to do is to consider this nation.