Thursday, April 15, 2010

A glance at the Oregon governor's race

This year, Oregonians must elect a new governor to replace term-limited Governor Ted Kulongoski when he leaves office in January of 2011.  A full slate of candidates from both major political parties are lined up for the job and have begun the task of selling themselves to Oregon voters.

The three names that garner the most attention in the media (and that must, therefore, be regarded as the "front-runners") are former Governor John Kitzhaber, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and retired Portland Trailblazer Chris Dudley.

I like all three of these men for various reasons.

Chris Dudley

Chris Dudley is a great guy with a great work ethic, as evidenced by his career on the NBA basketball court as a Portland Trailblazer.  Dudley was a workhorse and a team player.  You didn't look for him to score points, but you always knew that he would be down in the paint scrapping for those loose balls and blocking shots.  His work in the community speaks highly of him, as well.  Dudley founded the Chris Dudley Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting kids with Type I diabetes (an affliction from which Dudley himself suffers).

But... I am concerned about Dudley's lack of experience.  Oregon is facing some real challenges and I think we need a strong, experienced governor that knows how to work the state legislature to get things done.

Then, there is the unfortunate fact that Chris Dudley is a Republican.  Although I like and admire Dudley, my disgust for the Republican party, for what it has become, is such that I cannot vote for anyone associated with it.

(Please note that I have not always felt this way.  In the past, I have voted for Republicans.  I voted for Governor Vic Atiyeh in his reelection bid in 1982, and I voted for Norma Paulus in her unsuccessful bid to succeed Governor Atiyeh in 1986.  But the Republican party has changed since then.) 

Bill Bradbury

I have met Secretary Bradbury and he is a genuinely nice guy.  I like his positions on gay rights and green energy and I find his idea for a "Bank of Oregon" intriguing.  I like the idea of using state revenues to support local banks which will, in turn, use money to support local businesses.  In short, Secretary Bradbury's positions and philosophy jibe with my own views very nicely.

However, I have to admit to being a bit skeptical about Secretary Bradbury's ability to put up his dukes and fight, when warranted.  I was deeply disappointed with his performance in his 2002 race to unseat Senator Gordon Smith.  I volunteered for the Bradbury campaign back then and I really felt that Senator Smith was vulnerable.  I still believe a stronger performance by the Bradbury campaign could have succeeded.  The stakes in that election were very high, and it was offensive to me that one of the senators that represented my state supported Bush administration abuses.  Without Gordon Smith's mewling "aye" to add to the bleating Republican chorus, this nation might not be in such a terrible state today.

When things got tough with the state legislature, would a Governor Bradbury put up enough of a fight to get a progressive, pro-Oregon agenda passed?

John Kitzhaber

Governor Kitzhaber is a fighter.  That much is assured.  As governor, he implemented the Oregon Health Plan and held in check a Republican-controlled state legislature back when the state was in the grip of anti-tax demagogues represented by loathsome Bill Sizemore.

In the controversy over where to site a new state prison, Kitzhaber showed political courage by opposing a proposal to build the prison in rural eastern Oregon, instead choosing Wilsonville, just south of Portland.  Kitzhaber is a proponent of land-use planning, which does anything but endear him to developers:  another mark in his favor, as far as I'm concerned.  Kitzhaber is a medical doctor (a surgeon, in fact) and an avid outdoorsman. 

Which, then?

At this point in the race, I'm leaning toward Governor Kitzhaber, but I haven't written off Secretary Bradbury.  I have nothing against Chris Dudley other than the "R" behind his name.  Put it down to "blowback" from the Junior Bush administration.

The Oregon primary is only a few weeks away, so I'll have to make my decision soon.

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