Independent candidate backs Brown in surprise move

Patrick Starnes, a Brownsville cabinetmaker who took the political stage to spotlight campaign finance reform and third-party inclusion, announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the race and endorsing Democratic incumbent Gov. Kate Brown.

Starnes, the nominee of the Independent Party of Oregon, said he supports Brown because she has received fewer large campaign donations than her Republican challenger, state Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend.

This year’s gubernatorial race – to be decided in a week – is the most expensive in Oregon history. Combined, Brown and Buehler have raised nearly $30 million.

In exchange for the endorsement, Brown committed to supporting sending a constitutional amendment to voters to limit campaign finance contributions.

But Starnes’ announcement comes nearly two weeks after voters received their ballots. Nearly 600,000 Oregon voters have already turned in ballots, 22 percent of the state’s nearly 2.8 million eligible voters. About 28,000 of returned ballots came from voters registered with the Independent Party of Oregon. Another 100,000 of the ballots came from nonaffiliated voters.

Brown and Starnes have not agreed on a limit for donations, but Brown said she would favor the federal limits.

Starnes and Brown announced their unusual pact in an appearance at Portland station KATU.