It's official: Bend's Knute Buehler launches bid for governor

Could face Gov. Brown in rematch of 2012 campaign

BEND, Ore. - After months where it was treated by political observers as almost inevitable, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, made it official Thursday morning, announcing he will run for governor next year and seek to unseat Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in a potential rematch of their face-off for secretary of state six years earlier.

Buehler said on Twitter Thursday that he is "ready to bring change with education, budget and economic reforms."

A website was activated, laying out his campaign promises asking for donations of as little as $10 and beyond $1,000.

 On its homepage, Buehler said he's running because "while Oregon has a proud legacy, under Kate Brown, Oregon is falling behind and too many Oregonians have an uncertain future."

"I'm running for governor to help those uncertain Oregonians -- those who have been left behind, left out or lost hope in the future," he wrote.

Buehler said Brown -- who defeated him for secretary of state in 2012 and became governor when John Kitzhaber resigned amid scandal - "has had her chance and she's failed."

"She's refused to lead on essential budget, pension and education reforms critical to Oregon's future. Our high school graduation and dropout rates are a disgrace and Oregon schools continue to rank near the bottom in education quality."

Buehler said he would, as governor, "restore fiscal sanity to state government -- holding the line on new taxes and redirecting dollars from pensions to classroom learning."

The Senate Republican Office this week said the state's Public Employee Retirement System debt has surged to $52 billion.

Buehler also vowed to "revive the middle-income economy -- resisting excessive job-killing regulations and investing in training and career education."

Buehler says retirement pay formulas should be reworked in the pension system for state employees, which has been draining state coffers, and the level of health care payments reformed.

The 53-year-old two-term lawmaker has been working to portray himself as a moderate Republican, pushing in 2015, for example, to expand access to birth control, something many Republicans strongly opposed.

Oregon Democrats already targeted Buehler earlier this year, filing ethics complaints claiming the orthopedic surgeon failed to properly report his payments as a St. Charles board member and from medical device maker Stryker Corporation. 

The state Government Ethics Commission dismissed all but one complaint, and settled the matter with a "letter of education" for his omission of his St. Charles board payments on the annual financial disclosure filing for his first year in office.

Brown, elected to a two-year term last fall, has been campaigning and fundraising since then, but has yet to formally announce her plans for the 2018 election.

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