Kitzhaber seeks fourth term as governor

By Lauren Dake The Bulletin Published Dec 10, 2013 at 12:01AM

PORTLAND — The man who once declared the state ungovernable could make history by returning to govern for an unprecedented fourth term.

At a news conference Monday at an elementary school in southeast Portland, Gov. John Kitzhaber announced he was seeking re-election in November 2014.

Kitzhaber’s third term marked a clear change in direction from his previous two terms as governor — he was first elected in 1994 and again in 1998 — when he earned the nickname “Dr. No” for the number of bills he vetoed.

In his third term, Kitzhaber, a Democrat, garnered national attention for his health care reform efforts and was able to shepherd through a number of his priorities, including overhauling the state’s education system and pushing through a package of bills that both cut the state’s pension system and raised taxes.

Now, moving toward a possible fourth term, he is quick to point to his track record of working with politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“As important as these accomplishments are, the way we accomplished them is equally important,” Kitzhaber said. “While part–isanship and ideology are paralyzing our nation’s capitol, here, over the past three years, in Oregon, we have shown time and time again, that it is possible to work together. That it is possible to compromise, and we have not allowed partisanship to get in the way of doing the right thing for Oregon and for Oregonians.”

Kitzhaber said his agenda for the next four years is “equally ambitious as the one we are currently involved in.”

He would like to see the state’s health care reform efforts extended to the private market. He wants to ensure schools receive more adequate and stable funding. It’s important, he said, to create more family-class jobs and to reduce the state’s carbon footprint while replenishing its natural resources.

The great challenge ahead, Kitzhaber said, is to ensure Oregon’s economic recovery continues to reach all parts of the state and works toward ending income stagnation, which continues to erode the middle class “and for the first time threatens a generation of Oregonians with a prospect of having a shorter life spans and lower standard of living than their parents.”

The Democratic governor said he realizes he’s closely identified with the health care transformation effort and could take a beating over the rocky roll out of Cover Oregon, the state’s health insurance exchange.

“I think we need to remember the website is not the exchange,” he said.

A couple of times while he was speaking, he noted that by this time next year, 100,000 Oregonians who currently don’t have health insurance will be covered.

“There is nothing bad about that; it’s all good,” he said. “And I’m certainly willing to take a few slings and arrows about the rocky rollout.”

The governor also touched upon overhauling the state’s tax code in the coming years.

He has tried twice before to make major changes to the state’s tax system. Both attempts were unsuccessful.

In the next six months, he’ll be working to find “solution space” on what an overhaul could look like and where business and labor groups could find agreement.

“I expect we would see something on the ballot before 2016, but it’s premature to delve into the details,” he said.

So far, Kitzhaber is the only Democrat who has announced he’s running for the state’s top office. State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, and rancher Jon Justesen, both Republicans, are also vying for the seat.

— Reporter: 541-554-1162,

ldake@bendbulletin.com