Patrick Starnes, Democratic candidate for governor, is pictured here in this file photo from 2019.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Patrick Starnes may have changed parties, but his positions on the issues remain consistent.

Starnes told The News-Review Tuesday that campaign finance reform remains a signature issue for him.

Starnes ran for governor on the Independent Party ticket in 2018 and made campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his campaign. He continued to fight for those reforms after that race was over.

In his 2022 campaign, he has pledged to accept no more than $1,000 per year from any individual donor and said he will not seek corporate or political action committee money.

He acknowledges that he’s going up against some powerhouse fundraisers like Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who he will face in the primary.

To date, Starnes has raised $2,246 in campaign contributions this year to Kotek’s $23,800, and Kotek started the year with more than $91,000.

Nonetheless, Starnes believes he can win without the big donors.

“When you get $30,000 from Nike, they don’t go door to door for you. They don’t do any phoning for you, and so our grassroots effort will have a lot more boots on the ground and more ears to the phone,” he said.

Starnes pushed for passage of Measure 107 in 2020, which made limits on campaign contributions and spending constitutional.

And he was pleased and a little surprised when a whopping 78% of Oregon voters voted “yes.”

He’s disappointed, however, in what he said is the Legislature’s failure to enact any limits now that it’s explicitly constitutional for them to do so.

“There were a lot of lame excuses,” he said.

Starnes said it seems to him that the legislative leadership already had Kotek in mind as a candidate for governor for 2022, and it just wasn’t a priority for her to set finance limits before her run.

“That’s why we have to run, to bring it back to the table during the campaign as a primary issue, because the Oregonians spoke clearly to me. I heard them and some people didn’t hear them,” he said.

Starnes is a cabinetmaker who currently lives in Brownsville in Linn County, but he was a household name in Douglas County long before he ran for governor.

He is a former secretary of the Douglas County Democratic Party and a former Douglas Education Service District board member. He was narrowly defeated in a Roseburg City Council race in 2002, ran unsuccessfully for Douglas County commissioner in 2008, and ran unsuccessfully as an independent for state House District 7 in 2014.

During the District 7 race, Starnes pitched the idea of financing Oregon Health Plan coverage for all Oregonians through a junk food tax. It’s an idea he still supports.

Starnes said 40% of the money going into school districts is leaving the classroom due to Public Employee Retirement System debt and private health insurance costs.

Creating a self-supporting “OHP for all” system would free up money for teacher’s assistants in schools, raising graduation rates, he said.

He also said it would save private companies millions and allow for the creation of a second program, which he calls “PERS for all,” or the Oregon Universal Retirement System. This would be funded by a 6% payroll payment from employers and 6% from employees, just as PERS is funded but would apply to everyone.

Starnes supports Gov. Kate Brown’s mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying people have to remember that those masks protect children under 12 who can’t be vaccinated and cancer patients with weakened immune systems.

“It’s not about you and your freedom. It’s about them and their vulnerability,” Starnes said.

It’s an issue that’s become personal for Starnes, since his wife Mary Oleri recently recovered from throat cancer.

Starnes said he left the Democratic Party after President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said hurt American workers.

He said he rejoined the Democrats this year because he was encouraged by President Joe Biden’s decision to block completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Starnes describes himself as an environmentalist but said he understands timber issues and wants to work in a bipartisan way to address challenges like wildfires that all Oregonians care about.

“As a builder, I feel like I could build a good bipartisan table where we could come together,” he said.

“I always feel like we have a lot more in common than what divides us. We all love our families, we all love Oregon, we all love our freedoms, and we want our communities to be better and better,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(8) comments


"40% of the money going into school districts is leaving the classroom due to Public Employee Retirement System debt and private health insurance costs." Wages and Benefits are going to be where the majority of any funding is spent. It is always the highest cost. Saying it's a way to add teacher assistants is just bad math, even a part-time worker's employer is going to have to pay employee taxes and the worker a FICA tax.

Perhaps on this issue, Mr. Starnes doesn't understand that people cannot live on Social Security alone. And a woman's wage throughout her career isn't going to receive a lion's share of either SS or PERS upon retirement. A woman's wage is still 70 cents on the dollar, a woman quits her job when her husband takes a new job out of the area, a woman often stops working to be a mother, raise a family, or to care for aging parents. Any and all of these circumstances leave a woman with lapses in employment. If any woman takes a job in government or public education, PERS is a welcome relief to a worry of having to retire into poverty when in fact she may very well still be considered living in poverty even with PERS retirement. On this particular issue, I disagree with Mr. Starnes.

Increasing insurance costs have only to do with the business of health insurance and their ever increasing costs. If the employer did not provide workers health insurance would they then add that amount to the worker's annual salary so the worker could purchase their own health insurance? Before the Affordable Care Act passed in 2013, insurance companies often chose to not insure anyone that might cut into their overall profit, the worker might be too much a risk to cover. I do know that when a workers union negotiates a contract with their employer, the first reason given for offering a measly 10 cent an hour raise is the rising cost of health insurance the employer pays.

Ultimately, it sounds as though Mr. Starnes wants to create Medicare For All in Oregon. The next few months will offer more information on the Medicare For All Act, currently in 7 Congressional Committees. Knowing committee work moves like molasses, in the coming months I'd like to see how the act is met in committees before I get behind a similar act in Oregon.


Patrick was a follower of Ayn Rand and objectivism for years.


Hmm, a "what's best for me is best" philosophy isn't making me feel fuzzy bunny rainbow sprinkles about him.




I think the operative word there might be "was". Lots of folks change as they mature, learn new info and experience new things.


Patrick Starnes understands Timber harvest & Forest Health. He is willing to compromise while the timber industry is not.

I encourage everyone to look at Starnes' ideas and learn from them.

Democratic minority in Douglas please stand up and be proud. There are more of us than you realize.

Huge bbfan

Management strategies that starnes supports are why the forest land burns every year and allows you to breathe that beautiful smoke.

But it's a moot point because Tina k is the next governor of Oregon. It's already been decided. Sorry 😞.


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