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Governor skips ONPA debate - again

For 30 years, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association gubernatorial debate ushered in general election campaign season.

PARIS ACHEN/PAMPLIN FILE PHOTO - Gov. Kate Brown speaks outside the federal courthouse in downtown PortlandFor her second consecutive election bid, Gov. Kate Brown is skipping the traditional summer kick-off gubernatorial debate hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

For the last three decades the debate has typically ushered in the general election campaign season.

The governor declined to attend the July 20 event in Central Oregon this year because she is attending the National Governors Association conference, according to Laurie Hieb, ONPA executive director.

The association's website indicates the conference is scheduled for Jul 19-21 in Santa Fe, N.M.

In 2016, the governor gave no specific reason for declining the 90-minute debate, which is usually streamed live on newspaper websites and reported in news stories.

"It's too bad Governor Brown has chosen to focus on national party politics instead of answering questions about solving local problems," said Rep. Knute Buehler, the GOP nominee for governor.

Buehler announced early Wednesday, June 13, that he had accepted the ONPA's invitation for a debate July 20. ONPA is still planning its annual conference July 20 and may schedule a time for Buehler to appear alone to highlight his platform.

Christian Gaston, Brown's campaign communications director, said Brown would attend the governors' conference to work "to protect health coverage for Oregonians, serving as vice chair on the health and human services sub-committee.

"It's a critical time for health policy with the Trump administration abandoning protections for pre-existing conditions, threatening the health care of thousands of Oregonians."

Buehler said he has accepted invitations for five gubernatorial debates from media and other organizations. The governor has yet to confirm her attendance at any of those dates. The Brown campaign is still working to finalize the dates and locations of debates.