Republican Knute Buehler is headed to a November showdown against Gov. Kate Brown as GOP challengers Sam Carpenter and Greg Wooldridge split the conservative vote in Tuesday’s primary.
Buehler, the GOP state representative from Bend, was winning by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over Bend businessman Sam Carpenter on Tuesday night. Motivational speaker and retired naval aviator Greg Wooldridge was third. Seven other Republican candidates split the remaining vote.
Brown was handily winning the Democratic primary.
Buehler celebrated his victory with supporters at McMenamins Old Church & Pub in the Portland suburb of Wilsonville. “I’m not going to take any time off,” he said. “I like working; I like the campaign trail.”
Buehler said he planned to meet with his staff to regroup over breakfast in the morning and then start the general election campaign with events in Portland.
The vote would set up a kind of rematch between Brown and Buehler, who faced off in the 2012 election for Secretary Of State. Brown won the election, then became governor in 2015 after the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber amid allegations of influence peddling. Brown won a special election in 2016 to finish out Kitzhaber’s term.
Tuesday evening, the candidates traded proposals for face-to-face debates. Brown called for three debates, with additional joint appearances in Portland and Medford. Buehler called for 10 debates spread across the state.
Buehler spent about $3.5 million on the primary and has about $170,000 in the bank, said Buehler campaign manager Rebecca Tweed.
Brown has $3.7 million in the bank to start the general election.
Buehler jumped into the campaign in August 2017 and immediately became the front-runner when Nike CEO Phil Knight gave Buehler $500,000 — the largest campaign contribution ever from an individual to a statewide candidate in Oregon.
Carpenter entered the race in the fall, casting himself as similar to President Donald Trump, right down to his campaign slogan: “Make Oregon Great Again.”
Wooldridge, the former commander of the Navy’s Blue Angels squadron, joined the race in February and leaned heavily on his military credentials and backing from Oregon Right to Life.
Until the final few weeks of the campaign, Buehler ran as if he was in the general election — hammering at Brown while ignoring the other Republicans on the ballot. But as the race tightened in May, Buehler ran ads critical of Carpenter.
Buehler and Brown are on track to eclipse the $17.7 million record for spending in a governor’s race, set in 2010 when Kitzhaber narrowly defeated Republican Chris Dudley.
— Reporter: 640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org