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Five Oregon GOP gubernatorial candidates discuss issues at Bend forum

(Update: Adding video, candidate comments)

And that's only about half the crowded Republican field

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Since 1987, Oregon has had a Democratic governor at the helm, but nearly a dozen Republican candidates are vying to change that in 2022.

Five of those candidates, including Brandon Merritt of Bend, gathered at the Bend Elks Lodge Wednesday evening for a meet and-greet and forum hosted by the Deschutes County Republicans, giving them a chance to debate various topics challenging the state.

But how would these GOP candidates stand out in such a crowded race?

"Ultimately, I think it comes to authenticity," Merritt said.

Some of the questions posed to candidates focused on topics like education, critical race theory, reproductive rights and taxes across the state.

Candidates like Bridget Barton, who works as a Republican consultant, and Alsea schools Superintendent Marc Thielman said they believe an executive order is needed to get rid of critical race theory across public schools.

"By executive order, I would ban critical race theory in schools immediately," Barton said.

Thielman says he was approached by his staff members years ago about CRT curriculum.

"When CRT was brought to me many, many years ago, they said, 'We've got to do this," Thielman said. "I said, 'We could, but no.'"

And when it came to reproductive rights, all of the candidates on hand said they are "unabashedly" or "unapologetically" pro-life.

Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten said she's a Christian, a conservative and pro-life.

"If I go in and have an abortion, I am not the one who dies -- my baby will die," McQuisten said. "Your tax dollars should not be funding this."     

Others, like Amber Richardson, who works as a small business owner, say higher taxes have hurt people like herself, and something needs to change for the middle class to survive.

"I have been hurt very badly, with a lot of these taxes and regulations," Richardson said. "I also have to listen to a board, and with my board, they change it every two years. They give me another regulation or another fee." 

And with the state still facing a pandemic, candidates like Merritt say they are done with mask and vaccine mandates.

"The reality, is we are coming out of this pandemic," Merritt said. "And there's no science behind the fact we're putting masks on children in the most formidable years of their lives." 

The candidates in attendance included:

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.



  1. None of these folks has a chance. They will probably get less than 1% of the primary vote. The Deschutes County Republicans evidently needed an excuse to have a night out. Did any of them donate any money? Not!

    1. Oh but these times they are a changing there tomd. Alot of people are really sick of the way all the democratic libs are running things. I think everyone is in for a big surprise this next election.

  2. Take the mask off, deny the pandemic, take women’s rights away, and do not teach our kids about racism. I wonder if they ever took social science classes in college. The problem is we all like to ignore the truth to continue to live in our status quo.

  3. You have people who are thoughtful, intelligent and have some common sense then you have Republicans. If you have ideas and really want to change things then I don’t care about your party but Republicans do nothing but complain yet have no alternatives to what they complain about. It’s a two party system that’s bought and paid for which totally sucks.

    1. Yo Stoner, while it’s self-evident the 2 party system in place is a failure, your inane stereotyping of Republicans leaves you with no credibility. Sorry man, but you’ve driven right off the road. Do better or find a better use of your time.

    1. Add to this list of the unqualified the guy who is running against DeFazio. His name is Alek Skarlotos. He graduated from Roseburg HS and appeared on Dancing With the Stars. He is known for boarding a train and helping to thwart an attack on a Muslim woman. Glad he was in the right place at the right time, but Oregon needs credentials and experience.

  4. doesn’t matter. All elections are bought and paid for and our vote no longer matters. Just look at 2020, Georgia, etc. Rigged. Besides, OR is getting bluer as California takes over and sensible conservatives are jumping ship and moving back to America, ie almost any state just the East of the left coast. OR is a sinking ship. Good job libs

    1. @Patriot22,

      Only a traitor would say that liberal states are not America. We are a gloriously diverse nation where different views should be celebrated.

  5. Wedge issues. In Oregon for a GOP candidate to be relevant they have to focus on issues that actually matter. CRT? No one but Fox News listeners care about CRT. Let address letting homeless live anywhere they want, not enforcing our laws. Daily I see people driving vehicles with expired tags, and I don’t think the Bend police enforce traffic laws anymore. I am a moderate Dem, but could support a GOP candidate who was rationale. Lately all they can focus on are divisive wedge issues. Sad.

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