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Kulongski is best equipped to lead

Citizens of this state deserve a better Oregon, and the candidate for governor who is best equipped to deliver on that promise is Ted Kulongoski.

The incumbent governor understands the road toward a better state begins with a stable and high-performing education system, more affordable and accessible health care, safe communities, and an improved economy that also sustains Oregon's quality of life and the environment.

Kulongoski is challenged by Republican Ron Saxton, a Portland attorney and former chairman of the Portland School Board. Over the past year, Saxton sought to define the election as a satisfaction test: Are Oregonians satisfied with their state and with state government? The answer is 'no.' But frankly, no one should ever be content - about themselves, about Oregon or how this state is governed.

The more essential question is: How shall Oregon improve and who can best lead that progress?

We believe Kulongoski is that leader. As governor, he directly addressed issues most important to Oregonians. He recognizes that more needs to be done, and in his candidacy articulated a vision for Oregon in much greater detail than Saxton provided.

Kulongoski has specific plans to invest in improved teaching of young Oregonians. He prompted local community colleges and the state's universities to work together better. He has concrete notions of how Portland State University, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University can excel.

The governor offers a plan to assist more than 100,000 young Oregonians who are without health care. He has successfully promoted Oregon as a good place for businesses to locate and expand, and he has led the state's on-going effort to invest in emerging, innovative businesses.

And as governor, he stood up to public unions to push through reforms of the state Public Employees Retirement System.

Saxton favors the same things: better schools, better public safety and an improved economy. He was the first public leader to warn of the growing cost of PERS. But he dramatically differs from Kulongoski, who often floats ideas for new taxes to support programs - such as an increase in cigarette taxes to pay for expanded health care, or a rental-car fee to fund more state troopers. Saxton claims new taxes are not the solution. He says government efficiency and an improved economy should first pay the way. Yet, Saxton does not specify his savings or how much they will generate.

Saxton is by far the best GOP candidate for governor since Norma Paulus and Dave Frohnmayer. But he hasn't sufficiently demonstrated that he can do the job of governor better.

Kulongoski's first term was not perfect. His involvement and communication with a divided Legislature was spotty. He displayed a reluctance to publicly rally Oregonians on issues. But he did govern in desperately difficult recessionary times. And Oregon moved forward. Times are better now.

No, we are not satisfied. We expect more from Kulongoski should he be re-elected. But this election is about the future, not the past. Kulongoski demonstrated the ability to lead in tough times, and in this campaign he has specified both a direction for Oregon and the means to move forward.