Editorial: Ads are extremely misleading on Buehler and voting

It’s a staple of political advertising to shade the facts so far that the truth can no longer be found. There’s no pretense of reasonableness or fairness, and neither party has clean hands. It’s one of the reasons voters are so disgusted by the political process and can’t wait for the campaign season to be over.

This year’s prime example is close to home.

Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown has found herself with a strong challenge from Bend’s Dr. Knute Buehler, a Republican who is also the candidate of the Independent Party. In recent years, Republicans haven’t had much luck at winning statewide office, but Buehler has won the endorsement of most of the state’s newspapers, including liberal Willamette Week.

A new TV advertisement paints Buehler as part of the “right-wing extreme team” and accuses him of threatening Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. It attempts to link him to Republican efforts in other states to require voter IDs.

Buehler has indeed pointed out that it takes more ID to rent a movie than to register to vote, and said he’d support an audit of the system.

But he has consistently affirmed his support for vote-by-mail and clearly stated he has no interest in ending it. This week’s Politifact Oregon in The Oregonian labeled the complaint against Buehler as “inflammatory and ridiculous,” giving it a “Pants on Fire” ruling.

The ad campaign, which also targets labor commissioner candidate Bruce Starr, was paid for by the Service Employees International Union, the Oregon Education Association and Portland publisher Win McCormack. We suspect the unions’ distress with Buehler has more to do with his support for pension reform than his positions on vote-by-mail.

Buehler didn’t win the endorsements of so many varied editorial boards by being an extremist. He is anything but. As The (Eugene) Register Guard said in its endorsement, “He is an ambitious, uber-smart candidate — and a throwback to the moderate pragmatic Republican Party that once produced iconic leaders such as Mark Hatfield and Tom McCall.”

In its endorsement, The Oregonian cited Buehler’s “nonpartisan bent and his familiarity with issues relevant to the office” as well as the fact that Buehler contributed to John Kitzhaber’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010. The state’s largest newspaper described Buehler as “an independent-minded challenger who will bring leadership and fresh ideas to an office in need of both.”

This is no extremist. Buehler is the kind of accomplished, non-ideological and thoughtful candidate that is all too rare on the political scene.