It's been long rumored, and it was practically official yesterday, when the notice about a press announcement landed in media inboxes yesterday with this peculiar letterhead (which everyone immediately noticed):
And, so, this morning, Governor John Kitzhaber made it all perfectly clear: Yes, he'll be running for a fourth term—a first in Oregon. And yes, he'll be using the nice cushion of cash he's been casually amassing ($239,000) while making up his mind to start burying the hopes of an emerging field of Republican challengers, chiefly State Representative Dennis Richardson (who's raised an unshabby $182,000 of his own.)
What's Kitzhaber looking to get done in what he hopes will be his 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th years atop the state? The Oregonian, at today's press conference at a Southeast Portland school, unsurprisingly reports, given the setting, that education spending and reform will rank high on the list. That was a priority for his current term, too. But it didn't work out like he hoped. The education reformer he hired to ride herd on the subject, Rudy Crew, was reportedly disengaged and eventually checked out for a job in New York.
Health care reform also came up, also unsurprising, given the state's spectacularly flawed enrollment website. Kitzhaber, according to the O, has acknowledged that could be a drag on his campaign—but he also tried to remind reporters that there's a lot more to Oregon's health care innovation efforts (something the national media has long recognized) than just an awful website.
As the O wrote:
Kitzhaber outlined four key goals: Adequately funding education, overseeing the implementation of the state's health care reforms, working to meet Oregon's carbon reduction goals, and boosting middle-class jobs.
Kitzhaber acknowledged that the troubled rollout of Cover Oregon, the state's health care exchange would be used against him in the coming campaign.
"I think we need to remember that the website is not the exchange," Kitzhaber said.
Update 12:30 PM: Richardson has responded with some self-congratulatory cliches, attempting to paint Kitzhaber as anti-business, despite the governor's continued zeal for the Columbia River Crossing highway-and-bridge project and the sweetheart tax breaks he's blessed for two of the state's largest employers, Nike and Intel.
The first one doesn't even really work.
“In baseball, you get three strikes and you’re out. Kitzhaber is asking for a fourth pitch. What we need is a new player to step up to the plate.”
And the second one just made me sigh and roll my eyes.
"We need to unlock Oregon’s potential by putting our natural resources to work, investing in education and mapping out a long-term plan for our state to thrive. Oregon’s prosperity engine is in front of us, and as Governor I plan to turn the key."
I hope the debates are better.
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