State Rep. Dennis Richardson announced in his hometown of Central Point Thursday morning that he will run for governor in 2014.
"Oregon has been digging itself deeper in the wrong place," the conservative Republican told a crowd of about 100 supporters at Don Jones Memorial Park. "This will require a new governor and effective leadership."
Richardson, who embarked on a statewide tour following the local announcement, said he has a plan to put Oregon back on the right path to improve its economy and create jobs.
Eastern Oregon rancher Jon Justesen also has announced his bid for the Republican nomination. Candidates can file their papers with the secretary of state as early as Sept. 12.
Mary DeVoss, an 86-year-old from Central Point, said she fully supports Richardson and his run for governor.
"I think it's a great idea. We want to help him with his plan."
Richardson said Oregon's leadership has failed to create a cohesive plan that lays the groundwork for success in the state.
He generally outlined a plan that he has been working on but said he wouldn't release details until he's had a chance to communicate with Oregonians in the coming weeks.
Richardson said that since Gov. John Kitzhaber first served as governor from 1995 to 2003, the state economy has gone downhill and the educational system has been eroded.
"We have more people unemployed than the national average," he said.
Richardson said he remembers a time when Oregon workers enjoyed wages that were higher than the national average.
He said he wants the state that continues to show its pioneer roots to return to a time when its educational system excelled and the forest products industry helped spur the economy.
Richardson said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is the law of the land. However, he said, those managing the Oregon version of Obamacare need to be mindful of long-term budget issues.
"Every Oregonian needs to have care that's affordable," he said.
Kitzhaber, who has been rolling out health care reform in the state, has not announced whether he will seek to stay in the office.
"The governor has previously indicated he is considering running for re-election," said Jillian Schoene, a spokeswoman for Kitzhaber. "I believe Mr. Richardson's announcement today is unlikely to be a factor in that decision."
Richardson, 63, has served on several positions in the state Legislature, including as co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which makes budget recommendations for state-supported services and programs. He was also the Oregon State Republican Party's treasurer from 1999 to 2003. A Vietnam veteran, he served on the Central Point City Council before moving into state politics.
Richardson made headlines across the country late last year when he endorsed allowing trained school personnel to carry guns on campus in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Tiny Robertson, former chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee and current chairman for the Congressional District 2 Republicans, said he thinks Richardson's message will resonate outside the rural areas of the state.
"He cares about Oregon," he said. "He cares about Oregonians."
Robertson said Richardson fought hard for a balanced budget in Salem, but he didn't see the same effort being made by the Democratic majority in the just-concluded legislative session.
"They stand up and they'll talk," he said. "We'll stand up and do something."
Rep. Peter Buckley, who worked closely with Richardson putting together the state's budget, said he's not surprised by the announcement, saying Richardson has been laying the groundwork for some time, compiling a massive email contact list.
"I think Dennis is a good man," he said. "We worked together well, but his ideology is horribly wrong for the state economy."
Buckley said Richardson's conservative austerity budget goals would damage the state, citing similar austerity measures taken in Wisconsin and some Southern states.
"I think it would be horrible for job creation and for education," Buckley said.
While he doesn't think Richardson stands a chance in the general election, Buckley said Richardson's pro-gun and anti-abortion stance will sit well with conservatives.
"He could very well win the Republican nomination," he said. "But he won't appeal to the broad spectrum of Oregon voters."
Ashland Republican Dave Dotterrer, who may make another run against state Sen. Alan Bates, a Medford Democrat, worked closely with Richardson on budget issues at the Legislature.
Dotterrer said Richardson was motivated to run for governor because of his work on the budget and his feeling that there was a no long-range plan for the state.
"He's been thinking about this for some time," Dotterrer said. "We went through some pretty lengthy discussions about this before he made his decision."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.