Oregon has not had a Republican governor since 1987, when Victor Atiyeh left office after a distinguished eight years. It is not healthy to become a one-party state.
Dennis Richardson aims to change that. The Republican state representative from Central Point was in Astoria last week. During a visit to The Daily Astorian, Richardson portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative who says that we need long-term solutions on the Public Employees Retirement System. He says that "the public sector unions control this building (the statehouse)." He adds that Gov. John Kitzhaber has overreached in promoting the Columbia River Crossing bridge unilaterally, without Washington state participation.
Most importantly, Richardson says he is running without the religious or social baggage with which the religious right wing has hobbled GOP candidates for governor. Asked where he fits in the national Republican spectrum, Richardson compared himself with the inclusive Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
It is a long-odds game to take on the Democratic incumbent Kitzhaber. But it would be good for all of Oregon if Kitzhaber had a reasonable opponent in the 2014 election. A level of hubris and presumptuousness has grown up around the Kitzhaber operation. That showed itself in his surprising unilateral strike at gillnet fishing on the lower Columbia River. And it is apparent in the Vancouver bridge project.
For those of us in rural Oregon, Richardson's desire to "represent the entire state, not just the I-5 corridor" resonates. For all Oregonians, his complaint that "it's always about getting through the next two years" rings a bell as well. The utter failure of the state's computer system — which has revealed itself in the roll-out of the state health exchange — begs for long-term solution. Of the computer morass, Richardson says: "It's criminal how it is organized. The systems (within state government) don't communicate."
All politicians would like to think of themselves as inevitable. But Oregon reluctantly gave Kitzhaber an unprecedented third term in the governor's office. Kitzhaber narrowly defeated Republican challenger Chris Dudley in 2010. If the GOP had put forward a better prepared candidate such as Allen Alley, Kitzhaber might well have been defeated.
As co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Richardson is well acquainted with the details of state government. He is a realistic candidate. There is plenty of substance to occupy a gubernatorial campaign. If Richardson sticks to that, his challenge to a fourth term for Kitzhaber will do Oregonians a big favor.