SALEM (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has been re-elected, winning her first full term as leader of the Pacific Northwest state.
Brown bested Republican Knute Buehler, a self-declared moderate who proved to be a strong challenger in a state where the GOP has a difficult time winning high-profile offices.
Brown was first appointed governor in February 2015 after John Kitzhaber resigned. She easily was elected in her own right in 2016 to finish out the term of Kitzhaber, who resigned amid accusations of influence peddling involving his fiancee.
The 58-year-old Brown was a long-time state lawmaker before becoming secretary of state in 2009.
The last Republican elected governor in Oregon was Victor Atiyeh, who served from 1979 to 1987.
Buehler sought middle ground on issues like immigration and criticized the Trump administration for pursuing rule changes that could hurt health care for immigrants.
Buehler had been criticized by immigration advocates upset at his support for Measure 105. That initiative would repeal Oregon's three-decade old sanctuary law, which limits state and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Brown used the immigration issue to try to tie Buehler to the right wing of his party and criticized Buehler for supporting the measure, which she argues could lead to racial profiling and discourage immigrants from reporting crimes to the police.
During debates and the campaign, the candidates also returned repeatedly to the state's public pension crisis, the state's biggest fiscal issue. Buehler said he wants to transition state employees to a private-sector style, 401(k) retirement plan and accused the governor of "pandering" to public employee unions by raising pay before instituting broad pension reform.
Brown said public employees "need to have some skin in the game," and pay some of their own pension costs, but didn't offer specifics.
The governor resisted the notion of wholesale cuts, attacking Buehler at one debate directly: "I think it's easy for a millionaire to say he's going to cut the retirements of hard-working Oregonians. I'm not willing to do that."