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Gubernatorial candidates debate debates

Knute Buehler proposes 10 debates while Kate Brown suggested three debates and several joint appearances with media organizations.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated seven times across Illinois during their 1858 campaign for the Senate.The Rev. Jesse Jackson once said that "deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy," and a Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler appears to want to stir the soul of Oregon — or maybe just that of his opponent.

Buehler, a state representative from Bend, said this week he wants to debate his Democratic rival, incumbent Kate Brown, 10 times before the November general election: two events in each of the state's congressional districts between July 1 and Oct. 21.

"I am flexible about the hosts and locations of the events," Buehler wrote in a letter to the governor on Wednesday. "My hope is that each joint appearance would create the opportunity for Oregonians to hear from us compare our records, and ideas and visions for Oregon's future. I would like Oregonians, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how they vote, as well as impartial journalists, to have the opportunity to ask us questions. I would like to limit the role of activist organizations, regardless of their issues or ideology, in planning, hosting and questioning candidates. I am also open to having some appearances include minor party candidates."

Others were skeptical about the prospect.

"With all due respect to Gov. Brown and Rep. Buehler, the only thing the public wants less than a Warriors-Cavs rematch in the NBA finals is 10 debates between gubernatorial candidates," Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss commented on Twitter. "Five is a stretch and three is plenty."

The Daily Astorian's editorial board called Buehler out for skipping out on many Republican forums and debates leading to May 15's primary contest, and called the state rep's invitation "ironic," but said Brown should accept the invitation anyway.

Democrats were also critical.

"There's a reason Buehler earned the nickname 'No-Show Knute,'" said Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. "Oregonians should question his sudden change of heart. While Governor Kate Brown is busy running the state, Knute Buehler is up to his normal posturing and game playing."

Brown had previously proposed three debates and "as many joint appearances with independent media outlets as possible" but has not accepted Buehler's specific 10-debate invitation.