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Kitzhaber is the better choice

Gov. John Kitzhaber had his share of stumbles in his last term, and recent revelations about his fiancee's potential conflicts of interest have hurt him in the polls, but on balance, he's still a better choice for Oregon than challenger Dennis Richardson.

Oregon's health care reform efforts are making progress, despite the embarrassing failure of the Cover Oregon website. Kitzhaber deserves much of the blame for that failure, but in the end, thousands of Oregonians were enrolled in coverage, many for the first time. And the state's innovative Medicaid reform efforts are showing results as well.

The governor also orchestrated a hard-fought compromise to rein in the growth in public employee pension costs.

Richardson, in contrast, is far to the right of the moderate Republicans who once appealed to Oregon voters and led the state well. He says his staunch conservative stands on same-sex marriage, guns and abortion won't define his administration, and we're inclined to believe him — but many of his supporters will have other ideas, and that could prove a distraction.

Beyond that, his plans to restore timber harvests by ignoring Congress and appealing to Americans on national television seem little more than wishful thinking. And his approach to state spending sounds like he wants to micromanage agency budgets — not a role for the governor.

Despite his flaws, Kitzhaber is the better choice for Oregon, especially if he steps up his game in his final term.