Kitzhaber for Governor: He's In

Jeff Alworth

John Kitzhaber, Oregon's governor from 1995-2003, announced this morning that he plans to seek another term

"I believe Oregon’s best days still lie ahead. But to shape that future will require a new civility and a willingness to move beyond partisanship and stakeholder politics. The most fundamental thing that I have learned from my terms as governor and over the last six years is that what we are doing now simply is not working: it’s not working for our kids; it is not working for our families; it is not working for Oregon.

"I am running for governor because we need to fundamentally change how we engage with one another to solve our shared problems. I bring to this a set of experiences, perspectives and ideas that can help during this time of crisis: when so many of our people are unemployed; when escalating health care and energy costs are burdening families and businesses alike; and when it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every state in the nation is facing similar challenges, but more than any other state Oregon has the capacity to move beyond them – but not by continuing to do what we have been doing in the past."

You can read the full announcement at his new website.  Kitzhaber also has both a Facebook page and a Twitter feed

Oregon Dems have obviously been waiting on this announcement for weeks, and it will likely affect names on and off the declared list of candidates.  Former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury has planned an announcement about his intentions for September 17.  Already-announced candidate Brian Clem has mentioned in the past that he might suspend his campaign if Kitzhaber decided to run.  

I'll post updates as information comes in.  In the meantime, discuss this new, rather profound wrinkle in the 2010 Governor's race.

Update.  From Ben DuPree at the Brian Clem campaign comes this email:

State Representative Brian Clem of Salem will announce his decision on whether he will run for Governor of Oregon this Thursday, September 3, in Portland. Rep. Clem has been conducting a statewide listening tour as he explores running for Governor, visiting communities across the state, sharing his vision for Oregon's future and hearing from everyday Oregonians how they feel we can best move our state forward.

Thursday, Sept 3, 2009, 10 am
The Ecotrust Building, Third Floor Terrace
721 NW 9th Avenue, Portland

The press conference will begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a brief question period. Rep. Clem will be available to the media for one-on-one interviews after the press conference has concluded.
  • guffman (unverified)

    Kitzhaber castigates "partisanship" five times over in his announcement statement, but does anyone doubt his interest in running again has everything to do with the partisan majorities in the Oregon House and Senate that Oregon Democrats have built since Kitzhaber left the scene?

    In other words, would Kitzhaber be seeking a mulligan if Republicans held 36 seats in the House, and 18 in the Senate?

    It seems very hypocritical to serve up such "post-partisan" pabulum in his announcement, when he wishes to serve again because the partisans of his party worked their asses off to build majorities.

    If Kitzhaber believes that "what we are doing now simply is not working" then he should say what he thinks those 36 Democrats in the House and 18 in the Senate should have been doing this last session. His statement says they are not working, and seems tone deaf to the reality that if he wants to be governor, he will have to work with them.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    Seems to me perfectly understandable for The Kitz to want a chance to do something with the office besides vetoing Republican craziness.

    Seems to me, the right version of "post partisan" is that Democrats now have the opportunity to set the agenda without having to negotiate with terrorists to get anything done. Republicans are terrified that we'll do it right and consign them to irrelevance for the next decade. That's why there are so many trolls and doomsayers running around pretending to "help".

    The Kitz already inspires confidence, even in traditionally Republican areas like his own Douglas County. I'm starting out on board with him, though it's going to be a long time until the primary and I'll be listening to what the others have to say as well.

  • Jessica (unverified)

    Guffman, Perhaps he think the legislature is doing just fine while the current Governor is not.

  • LGJ (unverified)

    Partisanship? Stakeholder politics? Could we focus on jobs and education instead? If we want real solutions, we need someone prepared to build consensus and work with a diverse cross-section of interests. Do we really believe in his two terms as governor Kitzhaber showcased that ability? I think Bill Bradbury in 2010.

  • Waiting for Guffman... (unverified)

    ... to put a little more thought into his posts. It's up to those in power to make a strong effort at bipartisanship. Of course, they need a willing minority party as well. But I wouldn't blame KItz for wanting to take a stab at using the current Democratic edge to take a stab at working to get things done in a bipartisan fashion. He didn't have that chance before.

    How do you know that's not his intention?

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    Jobs, education, affordable housing, and a transportation system that works for all and not just an elitist 1%. Wouldn't mind seeing the state try some economic development in an are other than the 'flavor of the month.'

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Bi-partisanship is a big order when the majority of Republicans are birthers (believe contrary to all evidence that our president is a Manchurian candidate, deathers (believe that Democrats created Medicare as a secret plot to eventually euthanize all grandmothers), or eliminationists (think that our president should be assassinated because he is a marxist/socialist/fascist and possibly a reincarnation of Adolph Hitler.)

    As a side note to give you an idea of just how extreme the Republican base is, a poll just out from PPP on Republicans says most Rs think the GOP Congress Reps and Senators are "too liberal." No wonder Norma Paulus says there's no one left in the GOP she can talk to.

  • Kev M (unverified)

    There are lots of up-and-coming Dems in Oregon who have fresh ideas about how to run the state, and don't carry the same personal and ideological baggage that Kitz does. The 1980s and 90s were not all that great of a time for state government. And the state gov't was a basket case when he left it to Teddy K in 2003.

    Kitz is going to have to make a pretty strong case about why Oregon shouldn't be giving someone else a shot at succeeding where he did not.

  • (Show?)

    I agree with Kim M.

    The world has changed significantly since Kitzhaber was governor. He is smart, so maybe he understands what’s happening now and will adapt, but maybe not. China is rising and will be much more important, for either good or bad, in the lives of our next generations. China’s economy is forecast to be as large as the US economy in 2035 and twice a large in 2050 (and think what that means for the size and capabilities of China’s military). We have a responsibility to our next generations to prepare them adequately. More of them will need to be fluent in Mandarin and to have spent time in China.

    But it is not only China that is rising. Another forecast has eighty percent of global economic growth in the next few decades taking place in emerging markets, places like India, Russia Brazil, and others in addition to China. Our next governor needs to understand that Oregon’s economic future will depend, in part, in our abilities to develop products and services for and to sell them in these emerging markets. Thus the need for a Go Global High School Study Abroad Program to get our high school students familiar with these markets all around the globe.

    There is one statement in his announce that worries me. It is “Develop the jobs of the future inside our own borders – and enhance Oregon’s ability to compete globally.” I agree with the statement, but worry that he thinks we can compete in a global economy without anyone leaving Oregon to learn, market and sell our products abroad.

    Does Kitzhaber understand these issues? Will he support the changes needed? I'm looking for a governor who does.

  • RyanLeo (unverified)

    Kitzhaber is using the same sorts of language that the 2008 Obama Campaign used. A liberal use of the word "change" with the specific intent on keeping it vague and undefined so that it appeals to independent voters, he attacks "partisanship" as a "block" alluding to a "different" type of "engagement" in politics the same way the Obama Campaign did, and he speaks of a "different kind of politics" in much the same way the Obama Campaign was calling an end to partisanship.

    I have to admit that he has taken his notes from the Obama campaign. Regardless, he does not need that kind of rhetoric to win against a Jason Atkinson or Allen Alley. All Kitzhaber needs is overwhelming majorities in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and a plurality in Lane, Marion and Jackson County to win the Governorship in 2010. The other counties account for only 35% of Oregon's population compared to the big six's 65%. (

    That being said, usage of Obama rhetoric is a gamble at this point. It is looking that Obama's vaunted healthcare reform is going to be gutted of a public option; and Kitzhaber's ultimate vision of the Oregon Health Plan is for it to insure all Oregonians just like Obama's public option would for all American citizens.

    I wonder, will Obama rhetoric still be in vogue if we arrive at a healthcare reform bill gutted and void of a public option?

    Will Kitzhaber publicly support Obama's healthcare reform if it is passed without a public option?

    If Obama's ratings dip toward and lower than 40%, how long will Kitzhaber stick with the Obama rhetoric?

  • guffman (unverified)

    Re Jessica's: "Guffman, Perhaps he think the legislature is doing just fine while the current Governor is not."

    Kitzhaber clearly is no fan of Kulongoski, as he threatened to run in 2006 when Kulongoski was the incumbent Democratic governor. And he chose to run in 1994 when there was a Democratic incumbent governor, Barbara Roberts (as rehashed recently in Jack Roberts' Oregonian op-ed and posted here at blueoregon). All that suggests is that Kitzhaber's notion of himself is inflated and rather worrisome -- he's apparently the only one who can do the job and save us.

    So I agree with the second half of your observation. But regarding the legislature -- Kitzhaber's announcement states:

    "The greatest obstacles we face today are partisanship and stakeholder politics: partisanship that has more to do with maintaining legislative majorities than with solving problems..."

    -- which leaves the impression he doesn't think Democrats in the current legislature are doing just fine, but instead thinking of maintaining majorities rather than solving problems.

    That doesn't sit well with me. Kitzhaber was absent and disengaged when those majorities were built, and if he should become governor again, he won't get anything much done without them.

    I agree with RyanLeo above that Kitzhaber's rhetoric appears vague and undefined and borrowed from the Obama campaign -- and in my view, uncharacteristic of Kitzhaber, who used to speak more plainly in his cowboy boots, and insensitive to the hard work many Dems put in while he was away.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Kitzhaber is a real stateman at governance. He is policy driven, however, and no lover of politics. I'm wondering if DeFazio the populist, wants to come up against him. Kitzhaber would do well with wise policy, DeFazio might do better at mobilizing public sentiment for progressive policy.

  • Michael B (unverified)

    I find it extremely ironic and more than a little bit offensive that Kitz is slamming Dems for being concerned with maintaining their majority (i.e. being responsive to voters???) when it is purely because of those very majorities that Kitz is even considering this run for Gov in the first place.

    We all know Oregon is way better off with Dems in the majority over the long haul even if that means choosing our battles carefully. Kitz appears willing, almost eager to sacrifice the Dem majority for his pet policies, and it will take an awful lot to convince me the sacrifice is worth it.

    IMHO the Dem establishment are fools to allow Kitz to walk. It will be their undoing.

  • guffman (unverified)

    Re "stakeholder politcs" -- the other great obstacle that Kitzhaber names in his statement, along with "partisanship."

    He writes: "I believe that many of the stakeholders which exert such influence over the legislature are ready for this change as well."

    Well, you know the maxim that you "campaign in poetry, but govern in prose" -- but Kitzhaber, like many candidates, lays the idealism on a little thick, and he sounds a little naive.

    The reality, unfortunately, is that stakeholder politics are alive and well, and some of those stakeholders are gathering signatures right now to undo the work of the legislature.

    Consider this scenario by 2011: enough signatures are gathered for a referendum on the tax increases, and voters reject the work of the legislature. Democrats lose a few seats in 2010 and do not have supermajorities in the Oregon House or Oregon Senate. And, per the predictions of Oregon's state economist, Tom Potiowsky, Oregon experiences a jobless recovery and job levels do not reach pre-recession numbers until early 2013.

    Is Kitzhaber the guy you want as governor then? Or do you worry that as the reality of severely constrained budgets undermines his idealistic agenda, he becomes petulant and disengaged? Will he shortchange education spending, as some say he did the first time around, in pursuit of his health care goals?

    I'm skeptical that Kitzhaber has the right skill set and ability to get something done in an adverse scenario. Idealists have a bad habit of getting frustrated with reality, throwing up their hands and saying something's "ungovernable." That makes Kitzhaber's candidacy a risky proposition.

  • Jessica (unverified)

    Guffman, When he says "stakeholders" I don't think he's referring to the legislature, I think he's referring to those who work to keep the democratic majority. And I happen to agree with him.

  • John (unverified)

    Here is Kitzhaber's speech to City Club of Portland last May.

  • LT (unverified)

    "I am running for governor because we need to fundamentally change how we engage with one another to solve our shared problems."

    Right on Dr. John!

    Although we come to a different conclusion, I like this: Posted by: LGJ | Sep 2, 2009 11:14:41 AM

    Partisanship? Stakeholder politics? Could we focus on jobs and education instead? If we want real solutions, we need someone prepared to build consensus and work with a diverse cross-section of interests. <<

    Yes, times have changed, but always for the better.

    We elected all sorts of good Democrats before words like "stakeholder" entered general activist parlance.

    Let's hear Bradbury and Kitzhaber on kicker reform, on tax reform generally (what do they think of the Revenue Restructuring Task Force report, for instance). Where do they stand on education funding and education reform (dandy ideas about Middle School restructuring on the America's Promise website--are they aware of those ideas and do they have opinions on them?).
    Where do they stand on job creation, on small business issues? Where do they stand on the more contentious issues debated in the 2009 legislative session, and on various items in the Public Comm. on the Legislature report (which has a list of proposed legislation).

    Most people are more concerned about their own work and family than who is running for Gov. prior to Labor Day in an odd numbered year.

    Does anyone really think professional political jargon will grab their attention?

    A way to demonstrate coalition building is to show elected officials supporting a candidate's issues if not officially endorsing a candidate themselves. Can they understand why so many people voted for Measure 65?

    But all that takes work. How much easier to just use glib rhetoric.

    I have no intention of jumping on a bandwagon this early. If Dr. John does not raise the intelligence level of political debate in this state above where it has been for many years, I would be amazed.

    This line sounds like pure Dr. John. "Every state in the nation is facing similar challenges, but more than any other state Oregon has the capacity to move beyond them – but not by continuing to do what we have been doing in the past."

  • Tim Young (unverified)

    I seriously almost puked I was so excited when I heard the good Dr. threw his hat in the race. He’s not a Republican or a Democrat hack; he’s an Oregonian.

    I keep a letter I got from him after slugging it out for students on the OUS Board. I barely keep track of my diplomas but, I sure do keep track of that letter.

    Ok, ok, I’m a nerd. :-)

  • Steve Dill (unverified)

    I hope Kitzhaber relaizes that Obamacare will cost Oregon thousands of jobs! In my industry, medical sales, we extimate that Oregon has already lost close to 1,000 medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales jobs in anticipation of health care reform. These are high-paing jobs, which will be lost forever! Learn more about the impact of Obamacare on jobs in medical sales at our blog. Visit

  • Steve (unverified)

    Great! Finally after "do-nothing" admin of Kulongoski, we get a new face full of fresh ideas to help Oregon become the state it could be and grow economically.

    Erm, I forgot Kitzhaber was governor before and his large body of accomplishments?

    At least can we get someone else besides a GOvernor K? YOu know he won't so anything besides the state besides write more speeches on health care. Albeit, important, but c'mon folks at least lets get some other issues on the table.

    I should be happy, that's one more issue than Teddy K took on ever. Glad to see the Dems are as bankrupt of new ideas as the Reps are.

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    Mr. Young, I know you and sir you are no nerd. Weren’t you student body president at PSU?

  • (Show?)

    Buhhaa, yeah back when reptilians ruled the Earth maybe!

    I am a nerd - and proud!

    Nerdproof: World of Warcraft, lvl 80 Holy Paladin named Laurus on the Kilrogg server and I even know my gear score and it is, drum roll please: 2364. Laurus is even Latin for victory. See, there you go. I got nerd street cred. :-)

    Lol. I don't care of you think I am a nerd or not, keep your eye on the prize and do your research and then come to the logical conclusion The Honorable John Kitzhaber is seasoned leadership, he is in this for Oregon and not just his own ego and he will produce positive results for all of us if elected. So if you are a Republican or Independent or Pacific or Libertarian or Green and and are tired of all the noise too, pick John. He will listen.

    If you are a D, word up - West Siiiiddeee!

  • (Show?)

    With all due respect to Dr. John, he will be eating his "Oregon is ungovernable" comment throughout the campaign. Also, in his eight years, he focused on parks, the environment and public health, all important issues, but NOT the issues that were confounding the State at that time: education and a dysfunctional tax system. I would certainly support him in the general election, but I spent time listening to Bill Bradbury last week, and found his candor, specificty, and focus on jobs and education more in line with what Oregon needs now. I think we are going to have a great discussion between great Democrats -- at least I hope someone talking about "post-partisan politics" is still a Democrat in more than name only -- and I'll be waiting to John describe with specificity what he would do differently.

  • (Show?)

    Hi Mr. Abrams,

    I must say I live in the political woods nowadays (it is wonderful). I am no insider. But if I had a guess it would be that we might see more reaching out rather than simple top-down decision-making. Sure, he is running for the top seat in the Beaver State but he knows who really calls the shots and that’s we the citizens. With that, specificity takes time because more are involved in the decision-making processes. Often decisions make themselves so for the experts there probably won’t be too many surprises but for the general public, it will take time.

    I wish your candidate the best and an honorable, highly civilized primary (and general). If I were campaigning against you on John’s team I would absolutely require my team to NEVER go negative, not even in the general. I would focus on the issues, the substance and leave personal attacks and sound bits to people who have weak arguments to begin with. Some people don’t think voters see through the “masks,” and “dirty-tricks.”

    They do.


    Oh, and I am totally biased. I love the guy.

  • LT (unverified)

    "With all due respect to Dr. John, he will be eating his "Oregon is ungovernable" comment throughout the campaign."

    Oh, you mean the way Novick won the 2008 primary by making an issue of Merkley's 2003 vote on a resolution he apparently didn't object to at the time?

    Face it, life wasn't easy in the capitol when Republicans had control---and were sending him bills just so he could veto them and then they could make a big deal.

    I recall when the GOP majority in the St. Sen. was 20-10 and they acted like the rest of the government was unneccesary. Then the voters shrunk that margin to 17, and a moderate Republican was heard to say "Now they will HAVE to listen to the moderates!".

    But Kitzhaber should not have said out loud what many were thinking--that a legislature which ended the 5th special session by sending out Measure 28 because they didn't have the votes for anything else had serious problems?

    There was one hero in that 5th special session--W & M chair was a Republican but was candid enough to tell an interviewer "Gov. Roberts was right about Measure 5 in everything but the timing" in answer to a question about why it was so hard to balance the budget in a time of declining revenue.

    That legislator didn't stay Republican very long. Eventually he left that party and eventually became a Democrat. Now he is St. Treasurer Ben Westlund, who has built a reputation for substance, wit, and friendliness.

    Count me a member of the "spectator caucus". I will sit back and see which candidate for Gov. comes closest to the standard set by Westlund.

  • LT (unverified)

    An example of a serious issue.

    Where do all the candidates for Gov. (and don't we have St. Supt. elections this cycle) stand on this?

    Don't underestimate what Tim Young says. As my friend Cathy used to say, 5% of the population are political junkies (Mark Abrams fits that category, as do most Blue Oregonians). But it is the other 95% who vote and decide elections.

    Sometimes on knowing the candidate. Sometimes on one candidate being inspiring and the other candidate borders on obnoxious with all the glib talking points and attacks. Sometimes one campaign's ads are inspired and the opponent's ads strike a person as clueless.

    One neighbor saying to another, "that ad was really stupid", will never be known about by consultants and likely never polled by campaigns. But do you really believe that conversation has no effect?

  • anti-snarker (unverified)

    Snark all you want - this is still a big deal that has a lot of people (who don't blog) excited.

    For me, outside of creation of OHP and the Merkley/Novick/Smith race - this is the most exciting thing to happen to Oregon politics in a long time.

    I'm looking forward!

  • LT (unverified)

    Amazing, Marc! Same comment (verbatim, I checked) both here and on the Oregonian story.

    One might think that is a calculated campaign.

    About this:

    • at least I hope someone talking about "post-partisan politics" is still a Democrat in more than name only --

    I have news for you. If Kitzhaber wins the primary and every registered Democrat votes for him, while every registered Republican votes for their nominee, the folks registered NAV and OTHER will decide the Gov. race.

    This is the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and it is time that people who don't register with a major party are represented in political debates. I am at the tipping point (no matter how many thousands of hours I devoted to candidate and party Democratic politics over the years) and could easily register NAV after the May primary. Too much game playing.

    Marc, instead of vague prose like this, "I spent time listening to Bill Bradbury last week, and found his candor, specificty, and focus on jobs and education more in line with what Oregon needs now."

    why not give us examples of Bradbury's candor, 3 specific examples that impressed you, what the "focus on jobs" hopes to accomplish, and what his priorities are in education.

    For instance, if he wants as much transparency on school administrator pay and evaluation (from principals to supt. and various other central office top management) as on teachers, wants to start dropout prevention in middle schools, wants to find ways to connect communities to schools in ways being tried across the country, that would be a great addition to the debate. Does he have a plan for doing those things? Or a different vision than I have outlined?

    But a verbal potshot against the former Gov. to a local reporter is all I have seen so far.

  • steve (unverified)

    Experience and competence in a governor can make a huge difference. Exhibit A is the neighboring state to the south. I'm not generally a great fan of comebacks, but it looks like Jerry Brown and Kitz will be the next governors CA and OR, and will be the right choices.

  • (Show?)

    Clem should still stay in even if Kitzhaber is serious about running. It would be a nice contrast to have several people running.

  • (Show?)

    Last night, someone posted a very insightful comment about modern elections. Mysteriously, it has disappeared! If that person were a magician, she/he might have just got busted by the magicians union for revealing too many ancient secrets. You know who you are and I agree with you 110%.

  • naschkatze (unverified)

    A good man and a perfect choice for governor because I have a sneaking feeling that Oregon will have to show the federal government how health care should be done. And when he has served his two terms as governor, I hope Ted Kulongowski will run again. I owe the governor an apology for being so hotted headed about his lack of support for Obama. He must have seen something the rest of us didn't because Obama has proven him correct.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    That sucking sound you hear is campaign money flowing into Kitz' campaign. Bradbury better have access to a big home equity loan, because by the time he gets around to throwing his hat into the ring in late September the only campaign money left will be from bake sales and car washes.

    I am a Kitz supporter but am a believer that a vigorous primary election can benefit the party and the successful candidate. But I have a feeling that this one won't be very well contested or very close, and that Kitz will cruise to victory in the primary and general elections.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    I understand that Blue Oregon commenters "Joe White" and "Old Ducker" will be running Kitzhaber's campaign and joining Kitzhaber's staff should be win. Joe will be in charge of the Office of Traditional Family Values, while Duckie will spend his time drafting a secession resolution to be presented to the legislature.

  • North Coast Demo (unverified)

    I said it before and I say it again - he had his time with little or nothing to show for 8 years in Mahonia Hall. It's time for new leadership - a generational change if you will. I am looking for a different choice.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Just to clarify, Joe White's participation in the Kitzhaber campaign and administration is contingent upon his being released from previous commitments to Gov. Mark Sanford. Ditto for Old Ducker, who is presently in charge of the South Carolina Department of Confederate Flag Worship.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    Well...I guess he needs something to do with his spare time. This is one case where boredom got the best of someone.

  • Capri M (unverified)

    Anyone else not that excited about Kitz? Dr. No is great for those who love a charming dictator.

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