The Washington Post

Oregon’s Kitzhaber will run for fourth term

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) addresses the media on Wednesday, Oct. 2 (Danielle Peterson/AP)

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) will seek a fourth four-year term in office, he said Monday, kicking off a campaign likely to be dominated by health care and tax reform.

Kitzhaber, already the longest-serving governor in Oregon’s history, kicked off his campaign for another four-year term at Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary School. He starts his campaign with $239,000 in the bank, the Oregonian reported.

Once known as “Dr. No” for the record number of bills passed by the Republican legislature he vetoed, Kitzhaber’s third term has been marked by a level of comity with a Democratic majority. Earlier this year, Kitzhaber shepherded a major package of tax reforms, aimed at funding the state’s education budget, aided by a bipartisan majority in the legislature.

“I didn’t do a very good job [in his first two terms] because I think I approached this from the wrong lens, and I don’t think I used the bully pulpit the way I should have,” Kitzhaber said in an interview in October in Portland. “I don’t think I had developed the depth of relationships that I had before. I tried to be a super-legislator my first eight years.”

Kitzhaber said Monday he would focus his campaign on education, implementation of health care reform, reducing the state’s carbon output and creating new middle class jobs. Health care reform could prove a headache for the Democrat, who spearheaded the charge for a state-run portal that has been beset by technical problems.

The Cover Oregon Web site has enrolled just 8,300 people after a rocky rollout stymied residents eager to sign up. Last week, Cover Oregon’s executive director, who had been under fire for the glitches, said he would take a leave of absence for medical reasons.

And though Kitzhaber didn’t say so at his news conference Monday, his reelection bid is also likely to be driven by tax reform, and Kitzhaber’s hopes of implementing a statewide sales tax. Kitzhaber told The Washington Post that any tax package would likely have to face voter ratification; given that sales taxes have failed at the ballot box nine times before, Kitzhaber said he would spearhead a modern campaign to convince voters to overhaul the tax code.

“The real issue with tax reform is, yes, it’ll have to go on the ballot or it will get on the ballot, but that should be okay,” Kitzhaber said. “You have to convince people, bring them to see that this is really in the common interest. That makes the hill steeper, but the outcome more robust and enduring.”

So far, no big-name Republican has stepped forward to make the case against Kitzhaber. State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R) and rancher Jon Justesen (R) have both said they will challenge the incumbent Democrat, and former state Republican Party chairman Allen Alley is also contemplating a bid.

Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982, the second-longest streak of continuous Democratic control in the country. Only Washington State has gone longer without electing a Republican. If Kitzhaber wins and serves for a full 16 years, he would be tied with California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) — assuming Brown, too, wins reelection — as the fourth-longest-serving governors in American history, according to the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog.

See Kitzhaber’s re-election announcement video here:

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.