Oregon east of the Cascades is, once again, “the middle of nowhere,” as former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt called it during his 1986 bid for the governorship. How else to explain Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s reluctance to debate her Republican opponent, Knute Buehler, on his home turf in Bend?
The pair has so far agreed to only three debates, one in Medford and two in Portland. Two will be televised, but neither Portland nor Medford stations serve markets in places like La Grande, Baker City and Ontario, and daily newspapers in those communities have neither ties to nor circulation in most of Eastern Oregon. Far eastern Oregonians get their local programming from Boise, Idaho; Spokane, Washington, and Washington’s Tri-Cities area, across the Columbia River from Umatilla, and their newspaper coverage from their own hometowns.
Brown’s reluctance to engage with Buehler is, perhaps, not so surprising. Her accomplishments as governor are relatively few, and no doubt she’d just as soon not be questioned about such things as the troubles with the state’s foster care system and the high turnover among top state officials since she took office. With little good to say, perhaps she’s decided her best option is to say nothing as often as possible.
Too, Brown was trounced east of the Cascades when she ran for a two-year term in 2016, carrying not one of the region’s 17 counties, and not coming even close to carrying most of them.
Even with those negatives, Brown should reconsider. The dry side of Oregon is a part of the state, after all. Largely forgotten, perhaps, in the rarified air of Salem, but still not “the middle of nowhere.”