SALEM — Speculation is mounting that former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber will announce this week he’s going to run for an unprecedented third term as Oregon’s top leader.

Kitzhaber is keeping mum for now, but friends believe he’s ready to jump in.

One of them — former state Senator Tony Corcoran — says Kitzhaber remains extremely popular with Oregon Democrats who are excited about the prospect of him becoming Oregon’s governor again.

Kitzhaber is a former emergency room physician and state legislator. He made his mark in the governor’s office as a defender of the environment and an advocate for expanded health care.

Under Oregon law, governors are limited to two consecutive terms. So Kitzhaber, who served two terms and then was succeeded by Ted Kulongoski, has the right to run in 2010.

— The Associated Press