Julian Bell

Local doctor runs for governor on climate change platform

Citing his passion to halt climate change, Ashland physician Julian Bell has filed to run for the Democratic nomination for Oregon governor in the May primary.

Bell, 44, who moved to the region five years ago, is medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Medford Medical Center. In filing election papers Wednesday he became the first Democrat to file for governor, although Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has indicated that she will run for the office she stepped into following the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Bell said the foundation of his candidacy is that climate change will bring potentially “terrifying consequences,” requiring the state to shift entirely to renewable energy within five years. 

“These are exceptional times and circumstances,” he said. “Fixing the climate will keep us occupied for many years, possibly forever. It’s a gun at the head of humanity and Kate Brown is not doing her job ... . She’s doing business as usual.”

A litmus test on Brown's climate credibility, said Bell, is whether she will oppose the Jordan Cove Energy Project, which includes a liquefied natural gas processing plant in Coos Bay, along with a pipeline stretching from Klamath County to Coos Bay.

Bell was born in Australia of Australian parents, then immigrated in youth to the U.S. with his father Robin Bell, who was doing post-doctoral work in immunology. Julian Bell became a naturalized citizen and graduated in anthropology from Cornell University before attending medical school in New York. He and his girlfriend, Sophia, are raising two children, ages 1 and 4, the youngest from their partnership. He is an avid painter and fly fisherman. He has no prior political or public service experience.

He says the idea of running for the state’s top office crystallized “when I looked at my two little children, and realized that our politicians and the fossil fuel industry's commitment to profit at the price of people's lives was condemning my little kids to a world that I wouldn't want to live in."

Noting this year's numerous wildfires, years of drought and lack of snowpack, Bell said, “You can watch climate change happening right in front of you and it’s not going to end well.

 “What is needed is a game plan to take us from fossil fuels to a clean, renewable energy economy in five years,” he said.

Bell has $20,000 in his campaign fund, he said, all out of his own pocket. He has been active in area climate groups, including Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, Rogue Climate and a group he started with three others, Hair on Fire Oregon, which his website says "works on mainstream advertising to spread the word that there is a solution to the climate crisis."

Ashland-area resort-restaurant owner Diarmuid McGuire, who formed Hair On Fire Oregon with Bell, agreed the bid for office is justified by Brown “playing Jordan Cove very close to the vest and refusing to take a position."

"If people really get alarmed and there’s no other candidate who takes climate change seriously, Julian will succeed," McGuire said. "If he succeeds in stirring up other political figures, then good, because we’ve literally gone over the tipping point on climate change.”

On his website, Bell also criticizes income inequality, citing the Bible verse, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god." He describes as "abominable" the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that prohibited restrictions on campaign spending by corporations, unions and other associations. Bell also supports abortion rights.

Bell said he knows a campaign for governor typically requires more than $1 million, a financial hurdle he hopes to lower by using social media instead of a typical ad campaign. Bell's website is

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at




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