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More fallout for GOP gubernatorial candidate who said educated women aren’t susceptible to abuse

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This post has been updated with the latest, including the resignation of Bud Pierce's communications director and Pierce's latest comments about the controversy. 

Minutes after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) revealed in a debate Sept. 30 that she had been a victim of domestic violence, her Republican opponent said that educated women are less susceptible to such abuse. It's a comment that has given his campaign bad headlines for days and caused one of his top staffers to resign.

On Thursday, the fallout continued for Pierce when he told reporters it's given him name recognition.

Here's what Bud Pierce, an oncologist, said at the debate Friday: "A woman that has great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone."

"Okay, so," Pierce continued over the boos. "Powerful women have access to lawyers and courts and go at it. But the women who are most vulnerable are poor women who don't have a place to turn, because they don't have shelter or family around them. So I would argue that in addition to strong laws and going after every sexual predator and every abuser, the way we can make every woman ... less susceptible to being harmed is to make them powerful."

After the debate, Pierce clarified his remarks in a statement and apologized to Brown: "I know that any woman, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse."

On Tuesday, Pierce's campaign manager, Nick Rhoten, told local news: "There's no disputing that the words that came out of at the City Club of Portland debate were wrong. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. However, the words that came out are not part of Bud's thought process."

But his apology apparently didn't go over well with one of his top staffers: Pierce's communications director resigned after the debate, citing his comments on domestic violence as the reason.

"I fundamentally didn't agree with what was said about domestic violence. It's not political, it's a moral issue," Stacy Kafka told the Associated Press. "As a woman, I was offended by what was said, and knew a lot of other women would be offended as well."

Minutes after Pierce made the offending remark, Brown had publicly revealed for the first time her past experience with the issue: "I know what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence," she said in response to a question about combating sexual violence in the state, which a recent report showed more than half of Oregonian women and girls report going through.

Her spokesman, Chris Pair, confirmed Brown's revelation to KGW, and a campaign official told the local news channel that Brown was not referring to her husband: "As Governor Brown noted, she and countless other women from all walks of life have experienced domestic violence."

After Pierce made his comments about what kind of women are susceptible to sexual violence, a visibly shaken Brown asked for a chance to rebut: "I'm honestly not sure where to start," she said. "I grew up in a middle-class family. I went to law school. I know what it feels like to be paid less — substantially less — than the male lawyer in the office next to me. This is not just about power; it's about making sure that people are not discriminated against because of their gender, because of their race and because of their sexual orientation."

Brown is Oregon's second female governor and the first openly bisexual governor in U.S. history. She's favored to win the special election in November for the state's top job. In February 2015, Brown was Oregon's secretary of state when she succeeded Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who resigned amid a public corruption scandal involving him and his fiance just one month after he was sworn into a historic fourth term in office.

One public poll from early September showed Pierce within theoretical striking distance, with Brown up 43 to 35. Other polls have given her a nearly 20-point lead.

Oregon is not on The Fix's rankings of the top six most competitive governor's races, and we've rated it as Safe Democratic.