After months of speculation and predictions, it appears, according to multiple sources, that former Governor John Kitzhaber (D), creator of the Oregon Health Plan, will run for a third-term as Oregon governor in 2010 (The Constitution bars anyone from running for more than two CONSECUTIVE terms, legendary governor Tom McCall (R) tried to run for a third-term in a similar fashion but lost the 1978 Republican primary to future Governor Vic Atiyeh (the last Republican to hold the office).
Needless to say, this announcement has fundamentally changed the race for Oregon governor and instantly upped the ante. My analysis is below.
Cross-Posted from Loaded Orygun: http://www.loadedorygun.net/di…
One of several sources reporting Kitzhaber will join the race is Oregon’s top political reporter Jeff Mapes in this blog post: Kitzhaber nears gubernatorial announcement.
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber appears poised to jump into the governor’s race.
The former two-term Democratic governor made several calls to top elected officials in Oregon on Monday and word swept through the state’s political community Tuesday that Kitzhaber planned to file paperwork launching his campaign within the next few hours.
The following post will briefly describe Kitzhaber’s record and analyze the impact his entry will have on the race.
Who is John Kitzhaber?
John Albert Kitzhaber is a 62-year old former emergency physician originally from Colfax, WA, although he grew up in Eugene and practiced in Roseburg (southern OR for those that don’t know).
In 1979 he ran and was elected to the Oregon House, serving one term before becoming an Oregon State Senator in 1981 and Senate President from 1985 to 1993. In 1994, Kitzhaber was one of few Democrats nationwide who avoided the GOP tide as he narrowly won a first term as governor but was easily reelected four years later in 1998. Upon leaving office in 2002, Kitzhaber worked on health care, founding the Archimedes Movement in 2006 to help organize his health care reform efforts.
Kitzhaber is certainly best known as the creator of the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s medicaid plan made famous for its then-innovative approach to health care, based on the idea of prioritizing treatment so that the most critical treatments were funded first. Although changed significantly since its creation in the early 1990s, this “prioritized procedures list” remains a key part of the plan to this day.
Kitzhaber’s other main accomplishment is the Oregon Salmon Plan, the hallmark of his second term, which successfully managed to maintain and in many cases increase salmon populations that were at the time collapsing. Combined with his staunch refusal to sign any bills forwarded by the then-Republican controlled legislature that weakened the state’s environmental and land use policies, as well anything else (earning him the nickname “Dr. No” from critics), Kitzhaber became known as an environmental champion.
Impact on the Race:
Kitzhaber’s entry has profound impact on the race. Here is how I would now rate it, assuming the announced candidates run on both sides.
Main Candidates: Kitzhaber, Former SOS Bill Bradury, State Rep. Brian Clem (Salem).
Analysis: Kitzhaber should easily beat both these candidates. Nothing against either of these fine public servants, whom I respect and may actually vote for but Kitzhaber is just way too well known and respected to lose the primary.
Rating: Leans/Likely Kitzhaber.
Main Candidates: Former Pixelworks CEO Alan Alley, State Senator Jason Atkinson (Central Point, which is in Southern OR).
Analysis: Atkinson should win this race but it will be close. Alley probably needs one more conservative candidate to jump in to split Atkinson’s support so that he can do what Ron Saxton did in 2006 and squeak through. None has emerged as of yet.
Rating: Leans Atkinson.
Assuming Kitzhaber (D) v. Atkinson (R).
Analysis: Jason Atkinson is another Republican who looks nice but is not the greatest politician in the world. He is also WAY too conservative for many Oregon voters. Given that Kitzhaber is not a “Portland candidate” (and trust me this matters), I don’t think Atkinson will be able to pull it out. Still, it could be close so I’ll rate it that way for now.
Rating: Leans Kitzhaber.
Let me know what you think.