Former NBA player and current Republican nominee Chris Dudley versus former Governor John Kitzhaber has been framed by the Dudley campaign as the fresh and new versus the old and tired. Is that a fair characterization?
Dudley wants to draw comparisons between himself and former Republican Governors Tom McCall and Vic Atiyeh. And while he is no Sarah Palin, he is far from the moderate Atiyeh or the environmental champion Tom McCall. He’s a modern conservative, pushing dogma like capital gains tax cuts.
He chides Kitzhaber for once calling Oregon “ungovernable,” but doesn’t acknowledge the realities of the time, either then or now. Kitzhaber was somewhat hobbled, especially in his second term, by a very partisan and toxic Republican majority legislature. In spite of that, Governor Kitzhaber had some very important successes.
His two terms saw robust economic expansion and job growth. He signed legislation creating the Oregon Health Plan, a model for providing health care to those who need it most. With recent additions the Oregon Health Plan now assures all Oregonians that no child in Oregon will go without health care.
Chris Dudley touts a “20 point plan to create jobs in Oregon,” and uses an interesting reference point. Dudley compares Oregon’s economic situation with Washington to the north. He correctly notes better conditions, lower unemployment, and more robust job growth over the past several years.
It’s an interesting tact to take, considering Washington State has benefited from precisely the same political paradigm John Kitzhaber wants to take advantage of here in Oregon. Washington’s growth has come under across the board Democratic leadership. The governor’s office, like Oregon’s has been in Democratic hands for decades.
The difference is that in Washington, governors have had the privilege to be working with Democratic majorities. There hasn’t been the gridlock. Washington’s successes are directly attributable to progressive legislation and leadership.
When Dudley asks us where Oregon would be if we had the same growth and expansion as Washington, he should be careful. Voters in Oregon just might pay attention enough to look into who was in charge as Washington surged.
Yes, the choice for governor in Oregon this fall is between old and new. The old tired ideas of trickle-down economics, divisive social issues, and deregulation versus renewed action to sustainable jobs, environments, and opportunities.
No, Chris Dudley is no far right tea party ranter with no ideas but plenty of vitriol. He does, however, represent a potential return to failed policies. John Kitzhaber, on the other hand, has plans to move Oregon forward that will benefit all – not just the wealthy.