Oregon voters favor Brown in early polling
Half of Oregonians view Gov. Kate Brown unfavorably but would re-elect her by a narrow margin if the election were held today, according to an online survey by icitizen.
Forty percent said they would vote for Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) to unseat the first-term governor, who was the choice of 41 percent of those surveyed by the Nashville-based polling firm. 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.
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 that icitizen uses for online polls — were not confirmed as registered voters, said Cynthia Villacis, the company's polling director. But they self-identified by party affiliation, said Leslie Rich, icitizen's senior vice president of client services.
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.
The political demographics of respondents largely matched the state's makeup in terms of party affliation, Rich said, although results were weighted slightly to reflect that makeup. In Oregon, 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.
Don't know the candidates
Political pundits see the results as a bad sign for Beuhler, an orthopedic surgeon who was elected as a state representative in 2014. He also challenged Brown in 2012 for her position when she was Oregon secretary of state.
When Oregonians were asked to pick a preferred Republican to face off with Brown, a majority chose a man who hasn't even filed as a candidate and has had no media attention. About 31 percent of respondents said Greg Wooldridge, a former commanding officer of the Blue Angels and motivational speaker, is their preferred GOP candidate. Woolridge is a familiar name in conservative circles, where he has served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, but is lesser known outside of his party.
Meanwhile, 28 percent identified Buehler as their preferred choice. 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 may have erred by 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 doing that stuff so he is at 60 or 70 percent" as the preferred Republican candidate, Moore said.
Rebecca Tweed, Buehler's campaign manager, did not respond to a request for comment on the survey results.
Despite Oregonians' feelings about the governor, she had a clear advantage from her position as a Democratic incumbent, Moore said.
"She has people who are just not going to vote for a Republican. That is a bigger number of people than Republicans who won't vote for a Democrat," he said, "but this is clearly not a race she can coast through, regardless of who her opponent is."
The exact wording of the survey questions and more detailed results can be found at www.icitizen.com/polls.