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The Bend state representative is the only Republican contender qualified to be governor, and the only one with a chance to win.

FILE PHOTO  - BUEHLERSome partisan primary contests offer voters a tough choice. Do they vote for the candidate best suited for the job? Or, do they pick the candidate with the best odds of prevailing in the general election?

For Republicans voting in this year's gubernatorial primary, there's no dilemma. State Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, is the only Republican candidate qualified to serve as governor. And, he's the only one who has a chance at beating incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.

Beuhler overreached in his first bid for elective office. Six years ago, the Bend orthopedic surgeon ran for secretary of state against Kate Brown. He tried to position himself as the outsider running against a career politician.

It didn't work.

But after losing to Brown, the Roseburg native lowered his sights and jumped into the race for an open seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. Even though Democrats held a 2,000-voter registration edge in the Bend district, Beuhler won easily in 2014 and has held the seat for four years.

He's no longer an outsider, but his two terms in the House give him far more experience than any of his GOP rivals this spring.

Of that field, two have emerged as top challengers. But neither Sam Carpenter nor Greg Wooldridge have the kind of experience needed to govern a state. And, as both are running far to the right of Buehler, they would have little hope of unseating an incumbent Democrat in a solidly blue state, where anti-Trump sentiment is high.

Buehler, by contrast, is the kind of Republican who could attract nonaffiliated voters, Independents, Libertarians and even some Democrats unhappy with Brown. He's wary of big government, criticizing some of Oregon's vaunted land-use laws and Portland's zoning regulations aimed at boosting affordable housing. Yet he's progressive on social issues, supporting gay rights, women's access to abortions and, during the recent legislative session, even a common-sense gun control measure.

That makes some Republicans squirm, but it also makes some Brown backers nervous.

A Buehler-Brown fall matchup would force two experienced politicians to debate important and complex state policies without getting sidetracked by big differences on social issues. It would be good for the Republican Party and good for the state of Oregon.

Republicans should vote for Buehler.

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