GOP governor candidates on abortion, taxes, PERS
SALEM - Oregon Republicans have three distinct choices for their gubernatorial nominee on May 15.
Rep. Knute Buehler, a Bend orthopedic surgeon, has been laying the groundwork for this election for the past two years. He announced his plan to run well ahead of his opponents, retired Naval aviator Greg Wooldridge of Portland and Bend businessman Sam Carpenter.
But Buehler's moderate social platform prompted some members of his party to seek a candidate who would take a stronger stance against abortion rights and other social issues.
Wooldridge and Carpenter launched surprisingly effective challenges to the then-presumed frontrunner, said Jim Moore, political science professor at Pacific University.
Carpenter has modeled himself — though on a smaller scale — after President Donald Trump, adopting the motto, "Make Oregon Great Again."
The Pamplin/EO Capital Bureau asked the candidates questions about issues that are important to many Republicans. We have included their verbatim responses.
Each candidate was asked identical questions and provided a limit of 50 words for each answer.
The winner of the primary will face off with Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, in November.
Q: Do you support a constitutional change clarifying that passing fees and eliminating tax deductions and exemptions requires a three-fifths majority vote in the Legislature? Why or why not?
Knute Buehler: Yes, the Oregon Constitution is clear: fees and taxes are revenue despite what Kate Brown and Salem Democrats want you to think. I've opposed $14 billion in new taxes and fees the governor has supported. I'll balance the budget without increasing taxes and repeal the $1 billion tax on small businesses.
Sam Carpenter: Yes. We have this requirement for "tax increases." Anything that takes more money from the people should fall into this same category.
Greg Wooldridge: The Constitution is clear that raising taxes required a supermajority vote, and Democrats have circumvented this by claiming bills don't raise taxes, when, in fact, they do. We have a tax and spending problem in Salem that must be stopped.
Q: Should all abortions be legal? Why or why not? If only certain abortions should be legal, which kinds should be allowed?
Buehler: The issue of abortion is between a woman and a doctor — not government and politicians — and it should be safe, legal and rare. That's why I wrote and successfully passed first-in-the-nation legislation providing women in Oregon access to over-the-counter contraception without a prescription. This has significantly reduced unintended pregnancies.
Carpenter: No. Abortion ends a human life, and all humans deserve equal protection of law. Abortion should only be allowed for the health of the mother or in cases of rape or incest — and even then, adoption should be the first option.
Wooldridge: I am pro-life. Period. Gov. Kate Brown's extreme position that late-term and gender-based abortions must be provided by taxpayers is wrong. We need to have a conversation about putting limits on these types of abortions, and I'm confident that the majority of Oregonians agree.
Q: What is your opinion on man-made climate change? Is it real? On what evidence is your opinion based?
Buehler: I believe climate change is real, and human activity is part of the problem. As governor, I'll drive us toward a balanced approach that transitions us to renewable sources without excessive, heavy-handed regulation that rewards cronyism, costs small businesses jobs and drives up the cost of living for hardworking Oregonians.
Carpenter: The climate is always changing. Is it caused by man? There is insufficient data, and regardless, we must balance the very real economic impact against hypothetical environmental impact.
Wooldridge: Climate change is happening, but the Democrats have exploited natural climate change to punish businesses and raise taxes on workers and everyday Oregonians. We can protect our environment through well-thought-out public policy and by addressing our forest management and wildfire mitigation practices.
Q: How would you propose reducing gun violence in the state?
Buehler: Better suicide-prevention measures and mental health support could dramatically reduce gun violence, which is why I introduced legislation to supply vital information to every gun buyer at time of purchase. I also voted to close the 'boyfriend loophole' to expand protection for survivors of domestic violence from convicted abusers.
Carpenter: The problem isn't "gun" violence. The problem is simply violence, and the solution is to change society from the current culture of violence, stemming from the lost respect for human life. This will take a generation, but it must begin now.
Wooldridge: We need to better protect our schools and families and increase security measures that do not violate the Second Amendment, and we must address our state's lack of mental health care services.
Q: Given the Supreme Court's limitations on reform of the Public Employees Retirement System, what specific proposal would you advance to avoid increasing the state's unfunded liability?
Buehler: As governor, I won't sign a single new spending bill until the legislature passes meaningful, substantive PERS reform. To start, I'd cap the benefits at $150,000 per year, require public employees to contribute to their retirement and transition employees into a more traditional 401(k)-type plan while protecting current retiree benefits.
Carpenter: First thing is to convert all new hires to a 401(k) defined contribution retirement plan to halt increasing the debt and obligation. With this done, shoring up the existing liability can be achieved. A booming economy from lowered taxes and decreased taxation will bring new revenue to keep Oregon solvent.
Wooldridge: I would move our state's taxpayer-subsidized benefits to a private-sector style 401(k) style benefit. The state would match the contributions made to employee retirement plans, and workers would rest assured their retirements were safe; right now, they're in jeopardy because of a lack of political will.
Q: What is the most important issue facing the state, and how would you begin to address it?
Buehler: It's clear that Oregon has suffered from a terrible lack of leadership for too long. Our high school graduation rates put our children's futures at risk, the skyrocketing cost of housing threatens our communities, and our health care and pension systems are financially unstable. I'll lead where Kate Brown has failed.
Carpenter: Everything — from PERS to forests to homelessness to schools — stems from 32 years of radical progressive, far-left leadership failing Oregon. We address it all by rejecting leftist ideology and implementing a conservative agenda as a chief executive officer. Oregon needs a leader, not another failed bureaucrat in charge.
Wooldridge: We must address the culture that has normalized mediocrity. True leadership does not turn a blind eye to reality. I will lead by setting crystal-clear expectations that that will inspire others to achieve extraordinary results. There are many great people in Salem who need a leader in whom they can trust.