Poll: Brown-Buehler governor race very tight

Next governor election set for November 2018

Governor Kate Brown, left, and State Rep. Knute Buehler (Portland Tribune file photos)
Governor Kate Brown, left, and State Rep. Knute Buehler (Portland Tribune file photos)

SALEM, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Half of Oregonians view Gov. Kate Brown unfavorably yet would re-elect her by a narrow margin if the election was held today, according to an online survey by Nashville pollster icitizen.

Forty percent of the people surveyed said they would vote for state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, to unseat the first-term governor, according to the survey.

The survey of 645 respondents, paid for by icitizen, is the first glimpse into the mindset of Oregonians more than a year before the November 2018 gubernatorial election.

The Portland Tribune is a media partner with KOIN 6 News

Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, said the responses to Brown are unsurprising. “While she is a fairly popular governor, she hasn’t really done anything to put her name on,” Moore said.

“Clearly, this is a message for her campaign to communicate what she has done that makes her worthy to be governor again.”

The respondents — part of a “convenience panel” of Oregonians icitizen uses for online polls — were not confirmed as registered voters, said Cynthia Villacis, the company’s polling director.

Favorable opinions for Brown were stronger in the Portland area and the Willamette Valley, 45 percent and 55 percent, respectively. In the rest of the state, only 37 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of her, while 62 percent gave unfavorable feedback.

Out of all respondents, 341 were members of the GOP. In Oregon, only 26.7 percent of registered voters are Republican, 29.5 percent are unaffiliated and 36.7 percent are Democrat, according to the most recent statistics from the Oregon secretary of state’s office.

“That sounds to me as if (icitizen) oversampled Republicans,” Moore said.

Leslie Rich, a senior vice president of client services, said the results are weighted to reflect the state’s electorate makeup of different party affiliations.

Political pundits see the results as a bad sign for the Republican challenger, an orthopedic surgeon who was elected as a state representative in 2014. Buehler also challenged Brown in 2012 for her then position as Oregon secretary of state.

When Oregonians were asked their preferred Republican to face off with Brown, a majority chose a Republican who hasn’t even filed as a candidate and has had no media attention.

About 31 percent of respondents said Greg Wooldridge, a former commander of the Blue Angels, is their preferred GOP candidate. Meanwhile, only 28 percent identified Buehler as their preferred choice.

Wooldridge is familiar to conservative circles, where he has served as a delegate to the National Republican Convention, but is lesser known outside of his party.

Wooldridge is considering a bid for the Republican nomination and has met with several former gubernatorial candidates and political consultants. He would run as a conservative alternate to Buehler’s more moderate platform, said one political strategist.

Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez DeRemer, who is still exploring a gubernatorial bid, was named by 8 percent of respondents. Another 6 percent gave names of “other” candidates, and 26 percent said they are undecided.

“It means simply, people don’t know who these candidates are,” Moore said. “We know they don’t know who Knute Buehler is because somebody who is nobody is polling better than him.”

Buehler’s mistake may have come from failing to tour the state and introduce himself when he announced his intention to run for the office in late August, Moore said.

“He clearly needs to start to doing that stuff so he is at 60 or 70 percent” as the preferred Republican candidate, Moore said.