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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, left, and Republican challenger Bud Pierce participate in the first governor debate at the Riverhouse in Bend, Ore., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (Joe Kline /The Bulletin via AP)

Debate remains civil

BEND— The Republican candidate, a man with no political experience who says his private sector background can bring new vision to government, squared off in an inaugural debate against his Democratic opponent, a woman deeply steeped in politics.

However, this debate Saturday evening wasn't Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. It was between Bud Pierce, the GOP nominee for governor, and Gov. Kate Brown. And it was probably a whole lot nicer that Monday's debate between the presidential candidates will be.

The debate here highlighted stark differences in how the two candidates want to solve Oregon's problems. Brown, for example, supports ballot Measure 97, which would see companies that do more than $25 million in businesses paying a tax.

"Our budget is facing a $1.3 billion shortfall," Brown said at the packed conference room at a hotel in Bend. "That's why I support Measure 97."

Brown said the money is needed to help fund education, health care for senior citizens and other critical services.

"It's time corporations pay their fair share," she said.

Pierce said the measure would increase the cost of living for every Oregonian and that instead state government should learn to live within its means. A theme Pierce hit repeatedly was his contention that Democrats create more government programs with more bureaucracy instead of redirecting resources. Brown said Pierce wants to cut social programs.

The enthusiastic crowd seemed fairly evenly split between the candidates, judging by the applause each received after responding to questions from a panel of journalists. The debate was organized by the Oregon Territory chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Brown was secretary of state when she ascended to the governorship when Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-peddling investigation. Pierce is a Salem-based oncologist who runs several clinics. They are competing to fill the remaining two years of Kitzhaber's term.

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