Seemed like almost everyone who's anyone in state politics showed up at the Ecotrust building this morning to endorse former Governor John Kitzhaber for another crack at the job in the 2010 Governor's race. Attorney General John Kroger—himself a strong candidate for the job once he's proven himself in the AG's office—spoke of Kitzhaber's "moral conviction" and sense of "moral urgency" in the race. "We can't sit on our hands and wait. We've got to move forward and take action" on issues like health care and job creation, Kroger said, introducing proceedings:
"It does not surprise me that he already has 8,000 Facebook friends," said New Seasons owner Eileen Brady, who praised Kitzhaber's health care agenda. "He knows we have to put health back into health care," she said, drawing the connection between nutrition and physical fitness. "I know he will be an incubator of and a champion for the next group of leaders in this state," said State Representative Jefferson Smith, who founded the Bus Project with Kitzhaber as a strong supporter. Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler said he was convinced that Kitzhaber not only understands the issues facing the state, but that he has the skills to affect change. I've listed a few more endorsees after the jump, but you get the idea. There's a lot.
The hot topic for questions was a pair of upcoming ballot initiatives aiming to defeat Democratic tax hikes on corporations and those earning more than $250,000 a year. State business interests have mounted a ruthless campaign against the measures, which we've been covering here in the Mercury.
Kitzhaber, who spoke at a breakfast for members of the Portland Business Alliance this morning, said "I don't see any positive outcome from the ballot measure fight. It's only going to created more divisions between business and labor, and we need to work across that divide."
He said the business community had concerns with process, and whether the tax hikes should be permanent or sunsetted, but that "I'm not gonna support creating a $700million hole in the general fund without addressing those issues in the context of a full legislative session."
In other words, Kitzhaber is going to wait and see what happens in January with the ballot initiatives—opinion is currently divided on whether or not Oregonians will vote the tax measures down. He also plans to wait until at least 2011 before instructing the legislature to look again at the measures—the next time the legislature has a full session, instead of the quick hit we're in for in early 2010.
There was some talk among the crowd before the press conference about the Oregon paradox, that we vote for Democrats, but then consistently vote against their tax reform measures, but I couldn't say many were certain about which way the wind will blow in the new year, and people were using the phrase "new era in Oregon politics" with what seemed like sincerity, on this issue. So we'll see.
It's not clear yet whether Peter DeFazio plans to join the race for Governor, but so far, Kitzhaber's only likely opposition is from former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who just appointed Major League Soccer advocate Jeremy Wright to work on his campaign. In other words for the time being, it looks to me like the Governor's race is all sewn up.
More endorsees, from the Kitzhaber campaign:
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger; State Treasurer Ben Westlund; Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo; Former Congresswoman Darlene Hooley; Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler; Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury; Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack; Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz; Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard; State Senator Alan Bates; State Representative Debbie Boone; State Representative Peter Buckley; State Senator Ginny Burdick; State Representative Ben Cannon; Former State Senator Jane Cease; Former State Senator Ron Cease; State Representative Brian Clem; Former State Senator Tony Corcoran; State Representative Chris Harker; State Senator Mark Hass; State Senator Betsy Johnson; State Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson; State Representative Tobias Read; State Representative Mike Schaufler; State Senator Martha Schrader; State Representative Judy Stiegler; State Rep. & Bus Project Founder Jefferson Smith *; Former State Senator Cliff Trow; State Representative Suzanne VanOrman; State Representative Brad Witt; Eduardo Angulo, Executive Director, Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality *; Caitlin Baggott, Director, Bus Project *; Eileen Brady, Co-Owner, New Seasons *; David Kong, Commissioner, Oregon Commission on Asian Affairs *; Dr. Phyllis Lee, Retired Oregon State University Multi-cultural Affairs Director*; Randolph L. Miller, Chair, Moore Company *; Quinn Reilly, Founder, Roosevelt Institution *; Carol Suzuki, Oregon Council on Civil Rights *; Liani Reeves, Chair of Oregon Commission on Asian Affairs *; Tim Tso, President of the United Chinese Association of Oregon *
* Organizations named for the purpose of identification only.