PORTLAND, Ore. – Republican candidate for Oregon governor Dr. Bud Pierce drew boos from the audience at the Portland City Club on Friday after his answer about combating domestic and sexual abuse in Oregon.
In an exchange on the topic, Governor Kate Brown publicly disclosed for the first time that she herself has been a victim of domestic violence. The incident referred to did not involve her current husband Dan Little, a campaign official said.
A City Club member had asked both Pierce and Gov. Kate Brown about a recent report from the Women’s Foundation of Oregon that showed over half of the women and girls in Oregon have reported being the victim of some form of domestic or sexual violence.
“A woman that has a great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone,” Pierce said. That line drew loud boos and groans from several people in the audience.
Brown appeared visibly upset by Pierce's response and turned away from the audience briefly.
“I’m honestly not even sure where to start,” Brown said. “I grew up in a middle class family. I went to law school. I know what it feels less to be paid less, substantially less, than the male lawyer in the office next to me.”
“This is not just about power,” she continued. “This is about making sure women are not discriminated against because of their gender, because of their race and because of their sexual orientation."
Pierce released a statement Friday night about his comments that reads in part:
"As a physician who began medical school almost 40 years ago, and has seen many patients including women of domestic violence, I know that any women, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Sexual and physical abuse is morally wrong, is against the law, and must be opposed with all efforts."
Pierce also apologized to Gov. Brown in the statement. Read his full statement here.
A Brown spokesman said the exchange demonstrated a stark difference between the candidates.
"Dr. Pierce showed that he's not just out of touch with Oregonians, he doesn't exhibit even a basic understanding of the problems women face, regardless of their education level or income. As Governor Brown noted, she and countless other women from all walks of life have experienced domestic violence," said Brown spokesman Chris Pair.
In his response to the question, Pierce said economic empowerment is key to tackling abuse.
“I would argue that in addition to strong laws and going after every sexual predator and abuser, the way we can make women have a better existence and be less susceptible to being harmed is to make them powerful in terms of their jobs and opportunity.”
A state lawmaker who championed the women’s report said Pierce’s choice of words puts the blame on the victims of abuse.
“I think you listen to the words that he uses, being susceptible, being vulnerable, it’s putting the onus on women for the abuse, which is absolutely the wrong way to look at the situation,” said State Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland.
Friday's event was the second of five scheduled debates between governor candidates Kate Brown and Bud Pierce was before the City Club of Portland on Friday.
The inaugural debate in Bend 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.
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.
Here are the remaining debates.
Oct. 6 in Eugene. Sponsors: League of Women Voters and Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oct. 13 in Medford. Sponsors: KOBI-TV and KOTI-TV
Oct. 20 in Portland. Sponsors: KGW-TV and The Oregonian