Incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski is ineligible to run in 2010 due to Oregon’s term limits, so the field is wide open for candidates this year. Former two-time Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is campaigning to return for a third term in office against former NBA player and relative political novice Chris Dudley. Rasmussen Reports and other outlets rate this race as a toss-up between the two candidates.
Candidates for Governor of Oregon (four-year term)
Candidate: John Kitzhaber
Political experience: Kitzhaber was elected to the Oregon state house in 1978. He was an Oregon state senator from 1980 to 1992, serving as senate president from 1985 to 1992. In 1994 he was elected governor of Oregon, serving two terms after winning re-election in 1998.
Professional experience: A licensed physician, Kitzhaber practiced medicine from 1974 to 1988 in Roseburg, Ore., as an emergency-room doctor. Kitzhaber is now a medical educator and serves as director of the Center for Evidence Based Policy at Oregon Health and Science University.
Key issues: According to his website, Kitzhaber is focusing on jobs as his top priority. If elected, he plans to institute a large-scale weatherization of Oregon’s public schools to save energy costs and provide funding and jobs to re-invest in Oregon’s infrastructure. He wants to focus on a regional health care delivery system to improve the care and lower costs for health care for Oregonians. He also wants to reform Oregon’s educational system to ensure better support and training for teachers, as well as expanding the responsibilities of the state and local governments in maintaining educational standards.
Endorsements: Kitzhaber is endorsed by the Oregon AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, incumbent Gov. Kulongoski, former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts and the Oregon Education Association, among others.
Chances of winning this seat: The Cook Political Report and other outlets have labeled this race a toss-up. Kitzhaber has been Oregon’s governor twice before, so he both benefits and suffers from name recognition because of it. He was one of the politicians responsible for Oregon’s state-run health care program, and has a reputation for job growth during his previous time as governor, which can only help him. The state leans Democrat, so he has a possible advantage there as well.
Candidate: Chris Dudley
Political experience: None. If elected governor in November, this will be Dudley’s first political office.
Professional experience: Dudley played for five NBA teams in 16 seasons from 1987 to 2003. In 1994 he and his wife founded The Dudley Foundation, which serves children with diabetes. He was a vice president for M. Financial Wealth Management and since 2008 has been a partner with Filigree Advisors.
Key issues: According to his website, Dudley’s primary focus is job creation. He advocates cutting taxes to make Oregon more attractive to businesses, including the capital gains tax rate and income taxes. He wants to reform health care by making public employees pay a portion of their health care costs and promote healthier living among the state’s children as a means to keep health care costs low. Dudley believes in the model of school choice that allows parents to place their children in private or charter schools. He is a supporter of homeschooling options as well. He would like to implement stronger performance standards for teachers and students and incentives to encourage better achievement.
Endorsements: Dudley is endorsed by the Oregon Restaurant Association and former GOP gubernatorial nominees Allen Alley and Kevin Mannix along with several Oregon state representatives and senators, among others.
Chances of winning this seat: Rasmussen Reports lists this race as a toss-up. Dudley has no political experience to draw from, so he will have to continue to try and punch holes in Kitzhaber’s record in order to sway voters his way. Dudley is leaning heavily on his philanthropic reputation and this, combined with his arguments against career politicians like Kitzhaber, may help him persuade Oregon voters to give him a chance.
Key Differences between John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley
Jobs: Kitzhaber advocates the role that the state can play in creating jobs through increased infrastructure and weatherization projects to take advantage of green-energy jobs. Dudley is focused on tax reduction to attract private-sector business.
Health Care: Dudley opposes the recent federal health care reform, and he is focused on cutting state health care costs and encouraging private sector health care competition. Kitzhaber wants to continue to reform the way Oregon looks at public health care and implement a regional care health network that would focus on preventative care and pooling resources.
Education: Kitzhaber wants to reinvest in Oregon’s public schools, advocating stronger support and training for teachers, as well as a reduction in the achievement gap for children entering school for the first time. Dudley believes in parents’ right to choose alternative schooling options for their children, including private and charter schools. He wants to implement stronger teacher and student accountability.
2006 results: Kulongoski defeated Republican Ron Saxton 50.8 percent to 42.7 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 80.4 percent of the state is white, 1.6 percent black, 10.6 percent Hispanic, 3.5 percent Asian and 1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.