Bob Tiernan is convinced Oregon is ready for a change in the governor’s mansion. As a Republican candidate, he thinks voters are ready to elect a Republican, but not just any Republican.
“This is the year somebody who can get something done will win,” Tiernan said after visiting Brookings and Coos Bay during a stop along the South Coast. “I do think a Republican can win. I don’t think it’s going to be so much of the label that’s on you. I think if you can show I have the experience and the skills to get things done, that’s what will matter.”
And Tiernan believes her has the experience, the skills and the history of success that will give him an edge.
Tiernan does have a ton of experience, both in business and in politics. After growing up in Southern California and earning a masters degree in law from Georgetown, Tiernan began a law career but quickly realized he didn’t love it. So he turned to business.
He was hired as the interim president of Grocery Outlet when the chain was struggling to survive, and in those 90 days, he turned the company around. He was offered and accepted a four-year contract as company president, during which the company built 30 new stores and set all-time sales records.
He later held the same job with a different grocery chain, before returning to law. During all of that, Tiernan served 28 years in the Navy as a special intelligence officer, retiring as a commander.
In the ’90s, he ventured into politics, serving in the Legislature from 1992 to 1997. He also served as chair of the state Republican party.
“I was effective,” Tiernan said, pointing to a number of public-safety laws he spearheaded. “I helped make Oregon a safer place. It was my passion.”
Through all of it, Tiernan said he earned a reputation as a problem solver. In politics, he said having someone who can solve problems is key.
“I’ve been very successful in business. What I do in business is I solve problems,” Tiernan said. “In the Navy, I was on 17 assignments in every corner of the Earth. In the military, you take these special assignments and you don’t scratch your head and say I can’t solve this problem. You solve problems. We have an opportunity this year to put someone in office that can solve problems. Our No. 1 problem is we don’t have any leadership. We have a lot of self proclaimed leaders and that’s not what makes you a leader.”
Years after he fought for criminal justice reform in the Legislature, Tiernan said he remains passionate about the issue. He said people in Oregon no longer feel safe, and it is past time for the state to do something about it.
“Our criminal justice system has basically fallen apart,” he said. “We’ve let out 1,400 people from correctional facilities, felons. Portland has basically turned into a craphole with the lawlessness. In this one neighborhood, they’ve had 167 shootings in the last year. It’s spreading out. It’s spreading everywhere, and nobody is doing anything about it. It didn’t happen yesterday, it didn’t happen last month or last year. We have these problems that aren’t being solved. I think we have the wrong people in office.”
While the field in both parties crowded in the governor’s race, Tiernan said he is the only person with the experience in politics, business and service to do the job right.
“I think I’m different than the others,” he said. “You have to have the experience to know what it takes to take a big problem and march it to a solution in short order. That’s how you solve problems. The problems we have now, the lawlessness, the crime, not enough cops, letting people out of prison, all of that is solvable. I’ve done it before.”
Another big issue Tiernan is eager to solve is one that impacts every corner of the state – homelessness.
“The homelessness it totally solvable,” Tiernan said. “Yet no one is stepping p to the plate, making the tough decisions.”
While Tiernan acknowledges Oregon is a difficult place for Republicans to win, he said the right member of the GOP can prevail. But that person must be a leader and a problem solver.
“I think the Portland Democrats will elect anyone who can solve their problems,” Tiernan said. “Anybody who can execute and get the job done is going to be really appealing. I don’t think they’re going to look at the label, they’re going to look at the person. I think D’s have just had it.”
Tiernan acknowledged the road will be tough, especially in the crowded primary field. But he said he is happy to take on the challenge.
“As chairman of the party, I’m a big believer if you want to run, run,” he said. “We have a lot of people running. There’s four, maybe five top people who have the money and have a campaign. Right now, there’s a huge undecided vote. It’s probably anybody’s election. I think in the next five, six weeks one or two will break out.”
Tiernan admitted he wasn’t eager to get back into politics, but with the state in crisis, he chose to step up.
“If there was someone who was a very talented person running for the Republicans, I wouldn’t have run,” he said. ” We do have an opportunity to have a changing of the guard. I think Oregon is slipping into the abyss, and their needs to be a course correction.”
As the May election approaches, Tiernan said he is ready to work to get his message out to voters.
“People are different in different parts of Oregon,” Tiernan said. “They have different needs and different wants. I want to get Oregon back to where everybody is looking out for everybody. A problem in Brookings should be a problem in Coos Bay. A problem in Coos Bay should be a problem in Salem.”
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