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Our opinion: Kate Brown snubs voters and tradition with debate decision

Oregon’s newspapers — which are read either in print or online by virtually every active voter in the state — have a longstanding election-year tradition of inviting the two major candidates for governor to make a joint appearance at their summer publishers’ convention.

Kate Brown broke with that tradition this week by becoming the first incumbent governor to turn down this invitation from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Political newcomer Chris Dudley missed the 2010 joint appearance, but at least he had a decent reason. Brown gave absolutely no legitimate excuse for deciding not to appear next to her Republican opponent Bud Pierce, who accepted the invitation as soon as it was offered. That raises the question of why Brown is afraid to stand before a room full of journalists to defend her record and explain her vision for the future.

Brown seems to believe she can run out the clock on the November election without taking strong stands on important issues or giving voters much of any indication of what she would do if elected to a full term. Her decision not to appear at the newspaper convention is both a tactical mistake and an insult to voters who would like to compare the two candidates side by side.

By rejecting the newspaper publishers’ invitation, she has thumbed her nose at the people who operate 80-plus newspapers and accompanying websites in Oregon, reaching 86 percent of adults in the state. On its face, that’s a poor decision for her campaign.

However, the real damage will come as voters realize their governor is trying to avoid open discussion of the issues facing Oregon. Brown should reconsider and agree to follow a tradition that has placed the two major party candidates in the position of answering reasonable questions from a well-informed group.

For her to do otherwise is very un-Oregon.