Pierce seeks to concentrate on public safety, education and homelessness as candidate for governor

Bud Pierce, a Republican, visited Ontario recently on a campaign stop. Pierce, a Salem doctor, is one of a number of candidates running for governor. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

ONTARIO – Tragedy often defines a life and while Bud Pierce can point to a long list of successes, he is intimately familiar with misfortune.

Pierce announced his second bid for governor on the Republican ticket in December 2020. That same day his wife, Selma, was struck by a car and killed while on a walk near their Salem home.

The tragedy changed his political outlook.

He said the tragedy made him a better candidate in terms of the ability to connect to those who faced similar trials.

“It helps you feel their loss. Makes you more sensitive. When someone says they lost a pet or a spouse or a child, I really feel it,” said Pierce.

Pierce, who was in Ontario Jan. 12 at the Plaza Inn on a campaign stop, ran for governor against Kate Brown in 2016. Pierce was a relative political newcomer when he competed against Brown.

In the general election. Brown defeated Pierce 50% to 43%.

Pierce said his own personal tragedy helps in his effort to show voters “I am authentic.”

Pierce, a Salem oncologist and hematologist, has been a doctor for more than 30 years.

Pierce has an extensive agenda focused on specific issues such as public safety, education and homelessness.

A former U.S. Marine, Pierce joins a field of 10 Republicans and seven Democrats vying to gain enough votes in the May primary to get a shot at the state top political spot. The primary election is scheduled for May 17.

Republican candidates for governor have not fared well in Oregon since the early 1980s. The best showing by a Republican candidate for governor was in 2010, when political newcomer Chris Dudley came within 22,000 votes of ousting then-Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Yet Pierce is optimistic. He believes there are solutions to the challenges faced by the state as a whole and eastern Oregon in particular.

Eastern Oregon’s natural resources are obvious and should be utilized, he said. Pierce conceded there are an array of federal and state regulations regarding natural resources but wants to advocate for waivers from existing mandates from the federal government to help the economy of rural counties.

When it comes to education, Pierce said he believes reform is necessary to offer “a variety of educational opportunities for students.”

“Money has to follow the students,” he said.

One idea Pierce will execute if he is elected is the creation of a nonpartisan oversight board for education in the state. Members of the board, he said, would be people “who are experienced in education and training.”

“You say, how do we achieve best-in-the-nation status? It would oversee the entire education effort in the state to align principles,” he said.

Now, he said, “we’ve created too many fiefdoms.”

Pierce also believes public safety to be a cornerstone to a well-functioning state. Riots and civil disturbances in Portland made an impression on Pierce.

“You had this insanity of the mayor asking the governor for help and she said no,” he said.

He said he wants to create a more coordinated response to emergencies between federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies.

He wants to “get everyone on the same page.”

“The whole idea is federal, state, metro, and county are not aligned in their goals,” he said.

That can be solved by “by talking to people and spend time with them and agree on commons goals. That’s leadership,” he said.

Pierce also wants to improve the cost of living in Oregon by modifying regulations and prompting free market competition. Land use planning in the state also needs to be modernized.

“I want to make government work better in a practical way,” he said.

Pierce said he wants to get “more value” out of government and “freeze budgets where you can make it work.”

Pierce said homelessness in Oregon is a growing problem. He said he believes the creation of public shelters to help the homeless is a good idea.

“We provide the floor with public funding and layer in private people to work with homeless to achieve a change for the better. Given these opportunities, more people will be successful,” said Pierce.

Pierce also believes an effort needs to be made to lower health care costs.

Pierce said he wants to bring a new level of transparency to state government. One step in that direction, he said, will be to be available to the news media on a regular basis.

“I am going to let the media in. There is really no oversight of government but the media,” he said.

If elected Pierce has plans for eastern Oregon beyond capitalizing on its natural resource base.

One idea, he said he plans to establish is a working group dedicated to the eastern part of the state. This group, which will be attached to the governor’s office, would work with communities and rural lawmakers to give Pierce constant feedback on issues and challenges.

He also plans to visit eastern Oregon often if elected.

“You got to be out there. I think the governor needs to be outside the valley. As governor, I need to get out there,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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