Family: partner Cylvia Hayes, son from a previous marriage
Education: South Eugene High School, bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and doctor of medicine from University of Oregon Medical School
Experience: governor of Oregon; president, Estes Park Institute; endowed chair of health policy — Foundation for Medical Excellence; director emeritus, Center for Evidence-based Policy, Oregon Health & Science University; emergency room physician, Roseburg, 1973-1989
Time in Oregon: 52 years
Time in Oregon: unavailable
Family: wife Rosana Carr, two children
Education: Jesuit High School in Portland, bachelor’s degree in political science from Portland State University
Experience: CEO for 10 years at CoSource USA, a Tualatin company that manufactures truck parts for Freightliner and other companies; nine years as vice president of Portland-based DePaul Industries, an outsourcing firm that provides employment for people with disabilities
Time in Oregon: 56 years
Family: wife Mary Challstrom, five children
Education: bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Nevada, Reno
Experience: founder and owner of C.W. Concrete Inc. in Medford
Time in Oregon: 37 years
Family: wife Mary Cuff, four children
Education: bachelor’s degree in political science from Willamette University
Experience: residential sales broker for Prudential Real Estate Professionals; residential property preservation inspector; served on the Marion County Board of Property Tax Appeals
Time in Oregon: 53 years
Family: wife Leslie Karr, two children from a previous marriage
Education: studied computer science at Clackamas Community College
Experience: self-employed property manager; previously operated a floating food cart on the Willamette River and worked as a business analyst for Portland-based email marketing company Yesmail
Hometown: West Linn
Time in Oregon: 34 years
Lorraine Mae Rafferty
Family: husband James Rafferty
Education: high school diploma, classes at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho
Experience: owns and operates Hardwoods Plus lumber store in Grants Pass
Time in Oregon: 27 years
Family: wife Cathy Richardson, nine children and 31 grandchildren.
Education: bachelor’s degree in pre-law studies from Brigham Young University, law degree from J. Reuben Clark Law School
Experience: Oregon House of Representatives, 2002 to present; co-chair of the Joint Senate-House Ways and Means Committee, 2011-13; several decades of experience as a small business owner and small town attorney; Army combat helicopter pilot; previously served as a Central Point City Councilor and member of the local school district budget committee
Hometown: Central Point
Time in Oregon: 35 years
After a series of high-profile problems during Gov. John Kitzhaber’s third term, the Oregon governor’s race would appear ripe for challengers.
The failed launch of Oregon’s online health insurance marketplace drew national attention, and Kitzhaber was unable to convince state lawmakers to proceed with the Columbia River Crossing project.
Yet none of this was enough fodder to draw a serious Democratic challenger into the governor’s race, and political analyst Bill Lunch said the Republican front-runner, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, will find it difficult to win in the increasingly Democratic suburbs outside Portland because of his conservative positions on social issues.
Six Republican candidates will face off in the May 20 primary election, while the only candidate who filed to challenge Kitzhaber does not appear to be actively campaigning.
Lunch, a retired Oregon State University professor who regularly provides political analysis for Oregon Public Broadcasting, said in an interview last week that health care reform and the governor’s other policy priorities are still popular enough with Democratic voters in Oregon that they are not much of a liability for Kitzhaber.
“The issues that might be problematic for the governor are not ones that have a lot of resonance with the kind of voters on the Democratic side,” Lunch said. “The Republicans have a kind of structural problem right now, which is their appeal to rural constituencies, which is substantial, probably covers at the very most a third of the state’s population,” Lunch said. “What has happened in the last 10 to 12 years is the suburbs have swung more to the Democrats.”
The higher concentration of voters and political power in the state’s liberal metro areas is exactly what frustrates many Republican gubernatorial candidates, who say they want more local control of their property and tax dollars.
Kitzhaber is a well-known advocate for health care innovation, and the state got an early start building its own online health insurance marketplace. But six months after the insurance exchange was supposed to go live, Oregon is the only state in the nation where residents still cannot sign themselves up for health coverage in one sitting. The state has paid the primary technology contractor, Oracle Corp., $134 million in federal money and is withholding $26 million from the company, while Cover Oregon’s board decides how to proceed with the website. Board members are deciding whether to fix the existing website or go to the federal insurance exchange.
For his part, Kitzhaber, a former emergency room physician, said his takeaway from the experience is that he is a good doctor, “but I don’t know a whole lot about building websites.” The governor defended the overarching goal of health care reform. “The buck stops here on the management problem,” Kitzhaber said. “But at the end of the day, the website is a means to an end, not an end in itself.”
That’s not the only problem Kitzhaber faces. Republicans also say the governor wasted money on the defunct Columbia River Crossing project, the planned new Interstate 5 and lightrail bridge in which Oregon and Washington jointly invested more than $180 million. The Oregon Department of Transportation shut down planning for the project in March, after state lawmakers declined to pay for construction. Kitzhaber said the state’s investment in the project was not wasted because the state will archive all of the planning documents for later use. “It is the weak link in our transportation between Canada and Mexico,” Kitzhaber said of the existing I-5 bridge.
And as Richardson is quick to point out, Kitzhaber hired former Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew at an annual salary of $280,000 to oversee the governor’s plan to improve student achievement and coordinate the education system from preschool through college. Crew left after barely a year on the job, to take a job as president of the City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College.
Kitzhaber served two terms as governor, from 1995 to 2003. The state constitution prohibits governors from serving more than eight years during a 12-year period, but there is no limit on the total number of terms.
In 2010, Kitzhaber narrowly won the governor’s seat in a race against moderate Republican and former Portland Trail Blazer Chris Dudley.
Lunch said it’s possible to imagine a Republican beating Kitzhaber, “but not somebody as far to the right as Richardson.” Lunch said he expects Richardson will have a “terrible time with suburban voters,” particularly women, because of Richardson’s conservative positions on social issues. Last year, NARAL-Pro-Choice Oregon launched an attack on Richardson, calling his voting record in the Oregon House the “worst-of-the-worst. ” The group cited Richardson’s support for an unsuccessful 2006 ballot measure to require parental notification when teens sought abortions. The group also took Richardson to task for voting against legislation to mandate birth control coverage in prescription drug benefits and to require medically accurate sex education in Oregon public schools. Meanwhile, Richardson has attracted support from Oregon Right to Life’s political action committee, which contributed $20,000 to his campaign in November, according to state campaign finance records.
“Those positions work extremely well in the Republican primary,” Lunch said. “They don’t work well in the general election in Oregon anymore.”
The Bulletin interviewed seven candidates about why they are running for governor. Here are their responses.
John Kitzhaber: Kitzhaber, 67, said he is asking voters for a fourth term because he wants to continue working on Oregon’s economic recovery. “I ran in 2010 because I felt that embedded in this recession was an opportunity for some real transformational change,” Kitzhaber said. Four years later, “There are parts of rural Oregon that continue to suffer from double-digit unemployment, and a lot of the jobs we’ve created have been at the bottom or top of the income ladder.”
Kitzhaber said the economy continues to be the most important issue in this election, and he created Regional Solutions Centers to identify local economic development opportunities across the state. The regional advisory committee in Central Oregon identified as its top priority the expansion of Oregon State University-Cascades Campus, and university officials say the first phase of the campus will open to students in fall 2015. Kitzhaber said the new campus will help more Oregonians obtain the skills necessary to obtain good jobs.
Ifeanyichukwu Diru, the only Democratic candidate who filed to challenge Kitzhaber, does not appear to be actively campaigning and did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him.
Tim Carr: Carr, 56, said he decided to run for governor because no other Republicans from the Portland metro area had jumped into the race, and he believes a moderate Republican from this area would be the strongest candidate to challenge Kitzhaber. Carr said that with ongoing problems at Cover Oregon, “This is the one time I think Kitzhaber could go down. … He could do anything wrong, and no one seems to care.”
Carr said his top priority as governor would be to reform Oregon’s public pension system, and the only way to achieve this would be to start by moving the governor and his or her staff, plus all lawmakers and the Oregon Supreme Court, onto a 401(k) retirement system. The governor, lawmakers and judges currently have a financial interest in maintaining the pension system because they benefit from it, Carr said.
“That is going to take such an effort to get these people to vote against their own financial interest,” Carr said. “People cannot forget that issue is still out there. It’s going to bankrupt this state.”
Bruce Cuff: Cuff, 53, wants to give local communities more control over government spending. First, Cuff would like to cut personal income taxes and eliminate the business income tax — which currently provide a majority of schools funding — and instead require school districts to ask voters to approve local sales taxes to pay for schools. Cuff said this would make school districts accountable to voters and free up state lawmakers to focus on other budget issues. Cuff would also like to redirect much of the Oregon State Police budget to the sheriff’s offices in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. According to Cuff’s website, he wants to preserve Oregon State Police funding “where it makes sense,” including for the state crime lab and protection of state property. Cuff’s third major strategy involves appointing to the Land Conservation and Development Commission seven new members who will transfer land use planning control back to local communities so property owners can benefit from their land and have fewer restrictions.
Gordon Challstrom: Challstrom’s main focus in this election is on jobs.
“That’s what this state is starving for,” he said. “I want to see people become more self-reliant and self-sufficient.”
Challstrom, 58, would like to boost job growth by loosening land use restrictions, including mining and timber reforestation policies, so the state can make better use of its natural resources. Challstrom said he would push for the federal government to transfer land it owns in Oregon back to state control. According to Challstrom’s website, this would spur the creation of well-paying jobs in Oregon.
Darren Karr: Karr, 44, said that if voters elect him as governor, he will use crowd-sourcing to gather new ideas to improve Oregon’s government. “There’s a lot of ideas and innovation that we’re missing out on because we’re stuck in this old party system,” Karr said. Karr did not provide details of how he would orchestrate his crowd-sourcing plan, but he said he would hire technology firms to set up the new system.
Lorraine Mae Rafferty: Rafferty, 52, said she decided to run for governor because she opposes Richardson’s plan to attract Chinese companies to Oregon. Rafferty said she learned of Richardson’s support for the idea through a June 2011 newsletter to constituents, in which Richardson cited the benefits of Japanese car companies opening manufacturing plants in the United States. “Our message for Chinese investors is this ... Oregon is open for business,” Richardson wrote. Rafferty said she is concerned that as Chinese companies purchase land for companies in Oregon, Americans will lose control of the state. “We’re inviting an invasion,” Rafferty said.
Rafferty also said Oregon has too many regulations, so she would like to pick a point in history and remove all the state laws passed since then. Rafferty said that going back to Oregon’s 1959 laws “might be good,” but she would have to do further research in order to select the correct year.
Dennis Richardson: Richardson, 64, said in an interview Thursday that he is running for governor because he would be a better leader than Kitzhaber. “Presently, what we have is a governor who makes promises about the future, and then fails to deliver,” Richardson said. “Cover Oregon was going to be (Kitzhaber’s) legacy. … Instead of admitting failure and stopping the loss, we continue to spend taxpayer dollars because they want to save face. It’s gubernatorial malpractice, what he’s doing.”
Richardson said the most important issues in the governor’s race this year are job creation and improving the economy. Richardson said the state’s tax system is problematic but did not provide details during his interview on how he would change the current system. “We need to go through and determine the barriers that prevent Oregon from having a robust economy,” Richardson said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7829, firstname.lastname@example.org
— Monicia Warner contributed to this report.