The race to determine Oregon’s next governor kicked off September 10 when, after months of speculation, Salem’s Dr William C. “Bud” Pierce officially announced he was running as the Republican candidate in the 2016 election.
Pierce is a senior partner in Hematology Oncology of Salem, a private practice that diagnoses and treats blood diseases and cancer. He has lived in Oregon for 20 years and cared for more than 15,000 patients in that time, typically working 14-hour workdays. He has served as president of the Oregon Medical Society and volunteered at OHSU to teach clinical medicine and help review research protocols.
In calling himself a member of the Republican Party, Pierce associates himself with the founders of the party, “anti-slavery advocates, many of them people as faith.” In advocating for Coordinated Care Organizations in 2014 (a health plan serving Oregon Health Plan patients,) Pierce said that all Oregonians, “should care about the health services provided to uninsured and underinsured populations because the humanity of a society can be measured by the care society provides for the elderly, the poor, and the prisoners. Cruel societies care only for the economically valuable, and allow those who cannot produce to suffer from lack of shelter, lack of food, and inadequate health care services.”
In an informal statement to friends on September 3, Pierce focused on Oregon’s “broken government” which he maintained meant that citizens and businesses have trouble finding solutions to problems with state agencies and personnel; he discussed the poor performance of the state’s K-12 schools, its lack of a successful technical track alongside the high cost of university education and said the wellbeing of ordinary Oregonians was compromised by state government’s lack of leadership in creating needed infrastructure such as the Columbia River Crossing and functioning air transportation to small cities in the east part of the state and along the coast, “preventing growth” in those areas.
“Oregon’s state government is broken,” he said, “it functions poorly,.. It makes the living of ordinary Oregon citizens very difficult and wastes a great deal of our resources.”
Pierce places much of the responsibility on career politicians. “Our current leadership,” his website says, “is now commonly chosen from those who have little or no real experience in leadership in their private lives, but rather have made their political lives the essence of their existence.”
In an interview with Salem Weekly, he elaborated how his own leadership has been shown in the non-governmental, everyday world. He helped create a foundation, for example, to provide free medical care and low cost prescriptions to citizens. To date this foundation has provided $50 million in care to our most needy citizens.
“Unlike career politicians, who live from election to election, with their political position being one they try to desperately hang on to,” he said, “I can relate to Oregonians. I know what it is like to work at a variety of jobs. When my father died, I went to work as a bag boy for tips. As an orderly I learned how to care for people who were ailing, and as a small-business owner, I learned what had to be done to grow a business and take care of employees.”
Career politicians avoid real reform, Pierce believes, because it “might create controversy or risk their chance for re-election. We have seen the results of 30 years of leadership by entrenched politicians. Our state government is vast and has a large budget, yet Oregon has high unemployment and is leading in the number of people hungry and homeless. We are ranked nationally at the bottom in education and have too many poor performing schools. Our state has inadequate roads and infrastructure. All of this due primarily to years of politicians avoiding the tough issues, as well as plain mismanagement and time-wasting.”
In both his announcement and in his conversation, Pierce refers frequently to his decades of experience in medicine, diagnosing problems. “Over my career working with cancer patients,” he toldSalem Weekly, “I have seen tens of thousands of patients. We talk both about their health and their lives. Their struggles in Oregon have concerned me to the very core. I realized, just like a medical diagnosis, our state government is sick and broken and has not been adequately caring for its citizens.”
Some of the solutions Pierce offered in his September 3 talk included the appointment of new leaders to some state agencies and the consolidation of other agencies to create increased efficiency. He suggested the value of a strong work ethic, with welfare reform that restructured programs so currently dependent people would not be punished for joining the workforce. He said that big business efforts to adjust the regulatory code should include the same benefits to medium and small businesses in the future. He added that he disliked the practice of giving ‘sweetheart deals’ to out of state companies; “give the sweetheart deals to our own businesses.” He emphasized that future wealth and security in the state required an investment in higher standards in schools, including study halls on school grounds and a culture that glorified academic success the same way athletic achievement is now revered.
How to finance these reforms? “I reject the idea that taxes need to be increased to improve our education system and replace our infrastructure,” Pierce said on September 3, noting that the state works with a $69 billion budget every year. “The money is there,” he said, “we need to stop wasting billions of dollars annually and need to increase our prosperity by increasing wages and increasing the number of Oregonians who work.”
Pierce believes he has the leadership experience to change the way the state is run. “I connect with people,” he said in a special message to his Salem hometown. “I am a blue collar kid whose dad was a janitor. I worked almost my whole life. Education is what took me from that place to medical school. People who know me or who are my patients know I am their advocate… As Governor, I would work just as hard for the Oregon citizens.”