This election season Oregon promises to have a close race to the end for the governors mansion.
The latest Rasmussen Poll has the Republican nominee Chris Dudley holding a slight lead on Democrat John Kitzhaber, 49-percent to 44-percent, with 5-percent still undecided.
Dudley, a newcomer to elective politics, is most known as a former basketball player which includes a stint with the Portland Trail Blazers in his 16 year NBA career.
After his NBA career, Dudley became a businessman and continued his philanthropy. In 1994, he founded The Dudley Foundation, which advocates and supports diabetes research, a disease Dudley was diagnosed with at the age of 16.
Dudley hopes his experience as the NBA players union representative will lead to successful negotiations as Governor with the state’s union workers who have come under fire in recent years for their retirement packages that have contributed greatly to the state’s economic woes.
As Governor, Dudley plans to reduce the state’s capital gains tax, a tax voters approved in the 2008, to attract new businesses, job growth and encourage capital investments.
The last Republican Governor in the state was Vic Atiyeh, elected to office in 1978, and again in 1982. Oregon has since had four consecutive Democrats elected to the office, including Dudley’s current opposition, Kitzhaber, who served as the state’s Governor for two terms from 1995-2003.
Kitzhaber has largely campaigned on his experience as Governor during a period of unprecedented growth, while calling the state’s greatest obstacles “partisanship and stakeholder politics,” according to his campaign website.
State politics are largely dominated by the urban core of Portland, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Willamette Valley which includes the cities of Eugene and Salem, which has caused divisive rifts between the urbanites and the electorate who live and work in the state’s vast rural areas.
Near the end of his second term as Governor, Kitzhaber said to a Rotary Club in Eugene, that the state was nearly “ungovernable.” He was also dubbed with the nickname of “Dr. No,” after using a veto on 200 bills in his two terms that had been passed by the Republican controlled legislature.
Kitzhaber, a former emergency room physician, was largely credited with the creation of the Oregon Health Plan when he was a state senator. The plan was one of the first of it’s kind in the nation, which intended to make health care more affordable for poor families and uninsured children, and became a model for other states.