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Our Opinion: Allen Alley the choice in GOP primary

In a year when many moderate Republicans in Oregon are worried about the two men leading their party’s presidential delegate derby, they should find comfort and hope in the pair at the top of the state GOP gubernatorial race.

Allen Alley and Bud Pierce exhibit none of Donald Trump’s meanness or Ted Cruz’s hard lean to the right. What’s more, they treat each other — and the democratic process — with respect.

Both would make strong candidates in the fall, but our nod goes to Alley, whose broad business background is supplemented with valuable government experience. He offers Republicans a candidate who not only has a chance to win, but one who would be ready to govern.

Alley, an engineer by training, worked for Ford Motor Co. and Boeing before coming to Oregon in 1992 to work for InFocus and, later, to start Pixelworks, a semiconductor maker, where he became CEO.

Alley got his unlikely start in politics in 2007, shortly after leaving Pixelworks, when former Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski picked the lifelong Republican as deputy chief of staff, in part to help recruit high-tech firms to Oregon.

Alley’s role expanded beyond that and in the 14 months he served in that position he won praise for applying his business acumen to analysis of state policies and practices.

This isn’t Alley’s first bid for statewide office. In 2008 the high-tech entrepreneur was the GOP candidate for state treasurer, losing to Democrat Ben Westlund. Two years later, he ran for governor but was defeated in the Republican primary by former Trail Blazer Chris Dudley, who then lost to Democrat John Kitzhaber.

Alley served as chairman of the state GOP from 2011 to 2013, and the Lake Oswego resident now invests in high-tech companies.

William “Bud” Pierce also would bring a worthy set of skills to the governor’s office. The prominent Salem oncologist got the political bug during his tenure as president of the Oregon Medical Association from 2012 to 2013, when he co-chaired a state work group on patient safety.

Neither Pierce nor Alley is interested in campaigning on the kinds of issues that typically trip up Republicans seeking statewide office in an increasingly blue state. They agree on important economic issues — such as the destructive effects that would come from a $2.5 billion annual tax that’s expected to appear on the November ballot this year. However, with varying degrees of nuance, they also support decisions Oregon voters already have made about abortion and gay rights, doctor-assisted suicide and recreational marijuana.

On the last two issues in particular, Pierce has interesting insights. He was an early critic of the Death with Dignity legislation, fearing economic pressures could lead some individuals to end their lives prematurely. But as someone who deals with dying patients daily, he now sees the value of them obtaining prescriptions to stop their suffering. Similarly, he believes medical marijuana can offer specific relief for many cancer patients.

If there were a surgeon general of Oregon, we’d find it hard to pick someone better than Pierce for the job. But he’s running for a position requiring broader experience than that, which is why we are endorsing Alley, who had a front-row view of the job he now seeks.

Alley often approaches government problems — whether it’s K-12 education or a bridge across the Columbia River — as an engineer. This can, at times, lead to simplistic solutions that fail to account for the political calculus. But his analytic mind also allows him to consider intractable problems with fresh eyes. Alley could bring rationality to a Salem process too often driven by partisanship and emotion.

Alley’s political and government experience is particularly important this year, as whoever is elected in November will fill out the last two years of Kitzhaber’s term — a timeline rushed by his resignation last year.

That leaves no time for on-the-job learning, and means, in effect, the next governor will begin campaigning for the 2018 election soon after taking office.

That unusual set of circumstances, coupled with his unique experience and skill set, makes Allen Alley a compelling choice for the GOP in the May 17 primary election.