Oregon Republicans on Tuesday picked state Rep. Knute Buehler (R) as their nominee to face Gov. Kate Brown (D) in November, in hopes of stopping one of the longest streaks of Democratic dominance in the nation.
The Associated Press called the race for Buehler around 11:37 p.m. EDT.
Brown, seeking her first full term as governor, will begin the general election campaign as the heavy favorite in a liberal state that supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE over Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE by about 11 percentage points in 2016.
Buehler outlasted a handful of other Republicans, including businessman Sam Carpenter and Greg Wooldridge, once a commander in the Navy's Blue Angels program. But he spent heavily to do so; late campaign finance reports show Buehler dropped $2.3 million to win the GOP primary, precious resources that could have been used against Brown in November.
Buehler represents a district centered in Bend, in the heart of the Republican-dominated high desert east of the Cascade Mountains.
Brown took office in 2015, when her predecessor, John Kitzhaber (D), resigned under the cloud of an ethics investigation he has since settled. In 2016, Brown won a special election to fill the remainder of Kitzhaber's term by a seven-point margin.
Democrats have controlled the Oregon governor's mansion since 1987. That is a longer stretch of Democratic control than any state other than Washington, where the party has held the executive mansion since 1985.
Still, Republicans hope they can end that streak this year. Jon Thompson, the spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, pointed to Brown's decision to sign a tax increase.
"Kate Brown hiked Oregon taxes to new heights and has little to show for it," Thompson said in a statement. "Schools are failing, the pension crisis grows worse, homelessness is on the rise, healthcare dollars are misspent, and state government is rife with mismanagement. Oregonians deserve a new governor who can bring people together to solve problems and clean up Kate Brown’s mess."
In a statement issued an hour before polls officially closed, Brown asked the still-to-be-determined Republican gubernatorial nominee to debate her publicly three times, and to join her for editorial endorsement meetings with the Portland Tribune and Willamette Week, two alt-weeklies in the heart of Oregon's most liberal city.
"Voters deserve to hear directly from us on where we stand on the issues," Brown said in the statement.
Brown asked the Republican nominee to appear for debates on KATU and KGW, two stations based in Portland, and KOBI, based in Medford.