Oregon governor

Kate Brown (D) 707,446 50%

Knute Buehler (R) 623,149 44%

Aaron Auer (C) 14,636 1%

Nick Chen (L) 18,537 1%

Patrick Starnes (I) 40,811 3%

Chris Henry (P) 7,704 1%

Initial results as of Tuesday night

Gov. Kate Brown extended the Democrats’ 36-year winning streak for Oregon’s highest office Tuesday, defeating Republican Knute Buehler in the most expensive governor’s race in Oregon history.

“It’s not a toss-up,” Brown told supporters in Portland. “It’s not even a close call. It’s a slam dunk.”

Brown thanked supporters for getting out the vote.

“This election shows that when our values are on the ballot, Oregonians will come together and fight like hell to stand up for what we believe in,” Brown said.

Buehler congratulated Brown, telling supporters he hoped that she will move forward in a bipartisan way.

“It’s time for Oregonians to unite and find common ground,” Buehler said, “because there are significant challenges in this state, big problems that we have drawn attention to throughout this campaign.”

Democrats have won nine consecutive races for governor since 1986 — eight general elections and the 2016 special election.

Brown was leading Buehler by a nearly 6 percent margin after initial returns Tuesday.

Brown had been heavily favored to win the current race, but polls and political analysis throughout autumn showed Buehler was making inroads. His message was that he was a moderate with little in common with the politics of fellow Republican President Donald Trump.

The closeness of the race ignited a fundraising frenzy — more than $35 million raised by the candidates together. The largest chunk went to television ads, primarily negative attack ads by the candidates on each other that blanketed the state.

Through Oct. 29, Buehler had spent $9.9 million on broadcast advertising. Brown spent $7.5 million on ads through the same period.

Buehler portrayed Brown as a “failed” governor who had botched the handling of issues from public employee pensions to foster care.

Brown, in turn, said Buehler was much more conservative than the centrist he portrayed himself as during the campaign, particularly on abortion rights and the environment.

The race was a rematch: Brown defeated Buehler in the 2012 race for secretary of state. Brown then became governor in February 2015 when Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid allegations of influence peddling in his administration.

Expectations of a rematch between Brown and Buehler started soon after Brown defeated Republican Bud Pierce in November 2016 to finish the remaining two years of Kitzhaber’s term.

Brown was able to roll over more than $1 million into her 2018 campaign finance account.

Soon after Buehler announced his candidacy for governor in August 2017, he received a $500,000 contribution from Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Knight would eventually contribute $2.5 million to Buehler’s campaign.

Brown supporters say the number is actually higher because Knight contributed $1 million to the Republican Governor’s Association, which in turn contributed $3.4 million to Buehler’s campaign.

Brown in turn was supported with $750,000 contributions each from the pro-choice group EMILY’s List and Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control advocacy group backed by former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg. She also received major support from labor unions.

Buehler won a surprisingly tight and expensive Republican primary in which conservative businessman Sam Carpenter of Bend and former Navy aviator Greg Wooldridge attacked him as a RINO — “Republican In Name Only.” Carpenter and Wooldridge split the conservative vote, allowing Buehler to win the GOP primary without a majority.

Spending broke the record of $17.7 million set in 2010 when Kitzhaber defeated Republican Chris Dudley.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com