GOP gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce says he has accepted an invitation from the Oregon Territory chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to debate Sept. 24 in Bend.

Gov. Kate Brown's campaign spokeswoman, Liz Accola Meunier, declined to comment on whether the governor plans to accept the invitation.

"The host asked us to keep this process confidential, and we are respecting that request," Meunier said.

The hour-long debate will "focus solely on issues impacting exurban and rural Oregon," according to a memo by John Sepulvado, an Oregon Territory SPJ board member. Sepulvado sent the memo to the Pierce campaign June 24, said Stacey Kafka, a spokeswoman for Pierce's campaign.

The candidates will take questions from a panel of journalists on subjects ranging from agriculture to transportation, in front of a live studio audience in Bend, Sepulvado wrote.

SPJ has partnered with three media organizations that serve rural Oregon, including The East Oregonian, Jefferson Public Radio and KTVZ-TV, to organize the event, the memo stated.

In an email accompanying the memo, Sepulvado requested that the campaigns keep the invitation and the memo confidential.

Pierce issued a news release Wednesday in which he called for six debates during the campaign and announced he had accepted SPJ's invitation.

"We're trying to be open and transparent with voters so they can plan to attend," Kafka said.

The GOP candidate accepted SPJ's invitation within hours of receiving it, Kafka said.

Brown has said she plans to participate in at least three debates, starting no sooner than Sept. 1, and will consider more on a case-by-case basis.

The governor has received widespread criticism for declining to participate in a July 22 debate sponsored by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. That debate has traditionally served as the first debate of the campaign. No other gubernatorial incumbent has declined to appear in the debate since it began 30 years ago, according to ONPA.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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