Governor: John Kitzhaber

Oregon's problems are too complex for a newcomer; the state needs his experience

With a minute left on the clock and your basketball team trailing, do you send in an untested rookie, or do you turn to a seasoned veteran who's been in this situation before? We know what we would do, and that's why we recommend Democrat John Kitzhaber for Oregon governor.

Kitzhaber's Republican opponent, Chris Dudley, is a former professional basketball player whose 16-year career included six seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. Since retiring from the NBA, he has worked in the financial services industry and created a foundation to help children with diabetes.

A graduate of Yale University, Dudley is thoughtful and intelligent. But he has never held public office or worked in government.

Kitzhaber was elected to the Legislature in 1978, rising to Senate president before running for governor in 1994. He served two terms.

An emergency room physician from Roseburg, Kitzhaber was the chief architect of the Oregon Health Plan, which extended health coverage to low- and moderate-income income Oregonians who had lacked coverage before. After leaving office he continued to work on health care reform, and is widely recognized as an expert in the field.

Both candidates stress reforming Oregon's approach to budgeting, working to create jobs and strengthening public education. Their prescriptions in these areas are not far apart in many cases. For instance, both candidates call for making the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position. Both candidates say the state should end the practice of budgeting to maintain the current service level, starting from zero instead.

Both candidates are sincere, thoughtful men who want the best for their state. So how is a voter to choose between them?

It's one thing to have a game plan. It's quite another to execute it skillfully, and that's where Kitzhaber's background give him the edge in this race.

Oregon faces a huge challenge in 2011. A new governor who has never worked with a legislature and state agencies even in good times will face a tremendous learning curve from his first day in office.

A fresh approach is not necessarily a bad thing. If this were a more normal year — if balancing the budget was a matter of a few hundred million dollars rather than $3 billion to $4 billion, it the economy was in better shape — we might be tempted to give Dudley the ball.

But a do-or-die situation with the clock ticking is no time for on-the-job training. Oregon needs a steady hand with the experience to turn plans into reality.

We recommend voters elect John Kitzhaber governor on Nov. 2.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.