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Starnes to attend newspaper convention

The Independent Party of Oregon nominee for governor has taken a hard line on being included in public forums and debates for the gubernatorial race.

JONATHAN HOUSE/PORTLAND TRIBUNE - Patrick Starnes, Independent Party of Oregon nominee for governorAn aggressive bid by Patrick Starnes, the Independent Party of Oregon's nominee for governor, to be included in gubernatorial debates and other candidate events has landed him an appearance at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers' Association's convention July 20 in Central Oregon.

The association traditionally holds a candidate forum that ushers in the beginning of political debate season for the gubernatorial race, but since 2016, Gov. Kate Brown has declined the newspaper publishers' invitations to participate.

In 2016, then-Republican nominee Bud Pierce appeared at the convention alone and outlined his platform.

This year, the Republican nominee, Knute Buehler, a Bend state lawmaker and orthopedic surgeon, with have Starnes's company on stage.

Each candidate will have 15 minutes to speak at the convention, said Laurie Hieb, ONPA executive director.

Brown is reportedly skipping the ONPA event this year to attend the National Governors Association conference.

Officials with the Independent Party of Oregon have threatened legal action if debate organizers exclude Starnes from debates.

The party cites an Oregon law that states that unless organizers of any public forum or debate invite all major-party candidates for the office, they are required to report the cost of the debate and advertising for the event as in-kind campaign contributions to the candidates who were invited. The IPO became Oregon's third major political party in 2015 after party members made up more than 5 percent of voters who turned out for the 2014 general election.

Earlier this week, Starnes told Oregon Capital Insider that none of the debate organizers have invited him to participate.

John Tierney, executive producer with KGW — one of the debate organizers — said that no formal invitations have yet been issued for that station's debate.

Starnes, a cabinet maker from Brownsville, won the IPO nomination last month. His priority as governor is to reform campaign finance laws so that lawmakers are no longer beholden to their campaign contributors.