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For Governor: John Kitzhaber 

The Source Weekly endorses John Kitzhaber for governor of Oregon.

click to enlarge thumb_election_kitzhaber.jpg

Did Chris Dudley try to evade Oregon income taxes? Did John Kitzhaber's girlfriend get a sweetheart deal on a state contract? Such have been the "issues" in what has turned out to be, by Oregon standards, an unusually rough-and-tumble battle for the governorship.

We don't know the answers to those questions, and frankly we don't give a damn. For us, the one overriding question is whether Kitzhaber or Dudley is better equipped to guide the state through what is likely to be a tough four years.

The clear answer is Kitzhaber.

As governor for eight years, Kitzhaber was a bold and creative problem-solver, pushing reforms ranging from health care to salmon recovery. He wasn't always successful - he notably failed to get the legislature to create a rainy-day fund - but he always tried, and often succeeded.

Dudley has tried to paint the Kitzhaber era as an economic disaster. It was, but only if you look at the last two years of his second term, when the country was in a recession, and ignore the six years before that, when the national and state economies were booming and Oregon unemployment was less than 5 percent.

If Dudley has discovered a way to make national recessions halt at the Oregon border, we wish he'd share it.

Dudley is intelligent and likeable, but his résumé is so thin it's almost transparent. He has never before held a public office - not even a school board seat - and never sought one. We could overlook that if he had strong experience in the private sector, such as running a big corporation, but he doesn't. He was a journeyman center in the NBA, started a charitable foundation to help kids with diabetes and works as a financial advisor. That's pretty much it.

We also have to wonder what makes Dudley tick. Why does a guy who throughout his life has shown zero interest in politics or public office suddenly decide to go after the state's top job? Does he really have strong convictions of his own, or is he going to be the tool of the big-money contributors who are bankrolling his campaign?

We understand the desire for fresh faces in Salem, but the governorship is no place for on-the-job training - or for an empty suit.


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