Editor's note: This editorial appeared Nov. 10 in The Register-Guard.
Gov. Kate Brown has a unique opportunity to succeed where our national government has failed.
To prevail in last week's election, Brown and her fellow Democrats put together a powerful coalition that not only re-elected her but also gained a supermajority in both the Oregon House and Senate.
Legislative Democrats will have the power next year to make policy, including raising taxes, without needing any Republican votes. Yet that would not be good governance. Neither would it be long-lasting governance, given how the political pendulums swing.
So for Brown, this becomes the moment to defy conventional political wisdom and rise above the partisanship that permeates our country.
Brown won with a grass-roots coalition that she said knocked on over 400,000 doors in 10 days. Imagine what could happen if Brown built a wider, deeper, bipartisan coalition to address the state's many challenges. That collaboration could transform Oregon.
As for Brown, she would be not just a two-term governor but an innovative, insightful and potentially great governor.
To achieve that, Brown must reinvent herself and lead with courage and candor instead of caution. The election campaign was overly divisive, but it raised legitimate criticisms of Brown's performance. Her focus has not been clear, her policies have been ill-defined and her administration's commitment to transparency has been iffy.
In the aftermath of the election, Oregon's priorities should be clear to all. They are intertwined.
Our high school graduation rate is too low, our school year too short, our student attendance too erratic. Legislators examining our educational system said last week that they were stunned at the impact of mental health issues and family upheaval on the classroom.
Homelessness is pervasive, touching students, families and single individuals. The lack of affordable housing touches every corner of the state. Concerns about access to high-quality, affordable health care are widespread.
Schools and local governments, burdened by Oregon's public pension system, increasingly struggle to provide basic services. The state budget is headed there too, unless Brown and lawmakers put together PERS reforms, other cost savings and revenue increases that can pass muster throughout the state, as the 2017 Legislature's transportation package did.
Child protection and foster care remain significant challenges. Untreated substance abuse and mental illness disrupt families, cost jobs and clog the criminal justice system.
The economy is humming but not everywhere. And the urban-rural divide, which this election seemed to widen nationally, persists in Oregon.
It will be several weeks before the election tallies are official. As of last week, Brown won nearly 78 percent of the vote in Multnomah County and 55 percent in Lane County. However, she must be cognizant that statewide, her vote was hovering around only 50 percent. Although that was a substantial margin over Republican Knute Buehler's 46 percent, in some counties Brown did not draw even 20 percent of the vote.
Brown has visited much of the state — dealing with wildfires and other issues — since succeeding Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2015. Yet the perception persists that she is Portland-focused.
To become a great governor, she must demolish that perception. That means getting out of the Portland-Salem area and getting to know the small towns throughout Oregon as well as the population centers like Eugene-Springfield. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley hold town halls in all 36 counties every year. Why can't the governor?
Those personal interactions are Brown's strength. When people meet her, they like her. Legislators of all political stripes say she is accessible. Yet she often has been described as listening but not really hearing. She has been deaf to valid criticisms of her administration, proclaiming her good work instead of understanding where she fell down. She has stood up to the Trump administration on national issues but been cautious within Oregon on state issues.
Having won her second and final consecutive term as governor, Brown should dare to lead. Her supporters count on her to carry their progressive ideas through the Oregon Capitol. Brown must make room for views representative of the entire state to join her in refining those goals. Again, such a diverse coalition — in politics, geography and other ways — could best meet Oregon's challenges and also serve as a national model.
Public officials frequently talk about "The Oregon Way," by which they mean true collaboration where each side believes it has an opportunity to shape the outcome, and the final result is more than the individual parts. That is the epitome of leadership.
That is the opportunity for Kate Brown.
That is the hope for Oregon.