Buehler sees role as governor to bridge urban-rural divide

Knute Buehler sat down for an interview at the Malheur Enterprise as part of a campaign tour that included a stop in Ontario. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)

VALE – Knute Buehler says he can bridge the gap between urban and rural Oregonians, solve a growing homeless problem in the state and improve Oregon’s low-performing education system. 

All you must do, he said, is elect him governor.

Buehler, the Republican candidate for the state’s top political slot, sat down for an interview at the Malheur Enterprise last week as part of a campaign tour that included a stop in Ontario. Buehler is running against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. 

The two are familiar political opponents. Buelher faced Brown – in 2012 – for Oregon secretary of state and lost. 

Buehler outlined an ambitious agenda of eight goals he would implement if he is elected.

 “I want to see Oregon be the best place in the country to live, work and play,” said Buehler. 

He now represents the Bend area in the Oregon House. 

While some of his eight goals are clearly meant for the state as a whole – such as holding town hall meetings in all 36 counties every year – Buehler’s focus last week was on rural Oregon, featured in four of his goals.

He said he wants to promote rural job growth, support high-speed internet in rural areas, create forest jobs and provide more career and technical education in the remote towns and counties of Oregon.

His rural political package hinges on his plan to bridge the urban-rural divide in Oregon.

“It is important to make sure no one is left behind,” he said.

Buehler, a native of Roseburg, said Brown mostly ignores rural Oregon.

“Rural Oregon needs a governor who works to be that advocate, that champion, to bring back hope rather than despair. All of that takes a governor who cares,” said Buehler. 

He pointed to the proposed Jordan Cove Energy Project in Coos Bay as a way to stimulate job growth in rural areas.

The proposed natural gas export terminal has proved to be controversial during the past nine years. The project is still going through a state permitting process, but Buehler said the $7.5 billion project will create “hundreds of good-paying jobs.”

The farmers and ranchers that live in remote areas of Oregon are important, he said, for the economic health of the whole state. 

“The world needs goods and rural Oregon can produce them. I am optimistic about rural Oregon,” he said.

Buehler also plans to extend the school year and improve career and technical education opportunities. He said he also wants to ensure “kids in junior high have access to early college enrollment programs.”

He said Oregon ranks low nationally in graduation rates because of the “mismanagement of the Brown administration.”

“Think of the disadvantage it puts Oregon’s kids when they are trying to compete,” said Buehler. 

He said he wants to ensure trade remains a mainstay of Oregon’s economy. He will also prioritize the planning, and permitting, of water infrastructure projects across the state, especially in rural areas where the wet stuff is critical for agriculture and food processing plants. 

Buehler said the homeless problem in Oregon is becoming a “humanitarian crisis” that “got much worse under Gov. Brown.” 

A 2017 report by the Oregon Housing and Community Services showed 13,953 homeless in the state. Malheur County’s homeless population in 2017 stood at 151, or about 4.7 percent of the county’s 31,845 people.

“In Oregon, a tent or a sidewalk should never be seen as a home,” said Buehler. 

He said he plans to spend $10 million “getting people off the streets and into temporary shelters.” 

“The problem has gone beyond what local governments can handle,” said Buehler.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.