WASHINGTON ― Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) overwhelmingly defeated Republican challenger Bud Pierce in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, securing herself another two years on the job.
Brown won, 51 percent to 44 percent.
Brown and Pierce were running to fill out the remainder of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s term, which ends in January 2019. He resigned in February 2015 amid a scandal involving his fiancee allegedly using her position as first lady to advance her private business. Oregon doesn’t have a lieutenant governor, so Brown, who was secretary of state at the time, ascended to the governor’s job with just five days’ notice.
A former longtime legislator, Brown had the good fortune of taking over the job when her own party controls the state House and Senate. She has been hugely successful in advancing progressives’ priorities over the last year and a half. She has overseen a historic minimum wage hike and signed laws requiring stronger background checks on gun sales, phasing out coal-fired power plants and instituting a first-in-the-nation program that automatically registers Oregon residents to vote when they get a driver’s license.
Pierce, an oncologist, was always a long-shot candidate. He didn’t have name recognition, even within his own party, and Democrats have held the governor’s office since 1987. Pierce didn’t help himself when, in a September debate, he claimed educated women aren’t susceptible to domestic violence. He later apologized, but his candidacy became defined by that misstep.
Brown is perhaps best known as the nation’s first openly bisexual governor. It wasn’t a title she asked for; an Oregon newspaper outed her in a 1995 story about LGBTQ legislators. She married her husband a couple of years later, but she’s fine with her sexual orientation being a constant topic of discussion.
“It doesn’t bother me ... because what I think is really important is that kids see role models,” Brown told The Huffington Post in October. “You can’t be what you can’t see.”