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Republican candidate for governor visits Prineville

It's time for a change, Republican Ron Saxton told a handful of people at a meeting yesterday, citing the fact that there hasn't been a Republican governor since 1982

   If elected governor, Ron Saxton said he will take a different approach to the way the state is run.
   Saxton, a Republican is touring the state, meeting with business and civic leaders in a campaign to get his party's nod in next year's primary election. Wednesday afternoon he stopped in Prineville and spent an hour or two with a handful of local people. The visit, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce's Public Affairs Forum, was held at Meadow Lakes Restaurant.
   Saxton greeted those attending by explaining that he is different from any other candidate. "I am not a career politician," he said, "and I don't want to be a career politician. I don't aspire to any other office and don't want any other office."
   In a discussion with US Sen. Gordon Smith about his candidacy, Saxton said he was told that the difference in becoming a household name by the spring primary and remaining an unknown name is $500,000. "I plan to spend more than $500,000," he said.
   Saxton, an attorney, is the founder of the Ater Wynne law firm in Portland and has served as the company's chairman since 1990. He was elected to the Portland Public Schools Board in 1997 and also serves on the Portland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Juvenile Court System, and Boys and Girls Club.
   Although no one has yet to officially file for the governor's job, Saxton, 47, is one of two Republicans to declare candidacy for the 2002 governor's race. Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts also wants the job. Gov. John Kitzhaber's second term in office expires in January 2003.
   But Saxton and Roberts aren't alone in their bids for the state's highest office. Three Democrat hopefuls - former state Treasurer Jim Hill, former Multnomah County Commissioner Beverly Stein and Mike Thorne, former Port of Portland executive director - also have announced their candidacies.
   "Stein is working the hardest," Saxton said, "but I don't know if she can win in the Democratic primary. Hill has raised the most money, but it's said he has spent it all already."
   When asked about his chances of winning the Republican primary, he indicated that he believes he only has one possible contender; Congressman Peter DeFazio.
   "If Peter DeFazio decides to come home, he'll win the primary if he's in the race."
   But even then, Saxton said it'll be a tough race. "There has always been an heir apparent in the race for governor. There has always been a candidate with name recognition. This race doesn't have that, other than Peter DeFazio."
   But he said he already has the support of a good cross-section of party leaders. "(Former Congressman) Bob Smith and Norma Paulus (former superintendent of schools) are on opposite ends of the Republican Party," he said. "But both are very supportive of me. It's known that you can't win without a good support base in the metro area and Oregon's largest daily newspaper said in a story last week that I'm the only one who has that support."
   It is about time, Saxton said for a Republican governor. "There hasn't been a Republican governor in Oregon in 20 years and there isn't a single person appointed to a board in the state that was appointed by a Republican governor. And that's part of the problem in Oregon. "What led to my frustration is that we need to be a two-party state. We need a Republican governor after so many terms of Democratic leadership."
   When asked about the governor's role in bringing the 'two Oregons' together, he explained that he found that divisiveness interesting. The urban/rural division is normal, he said. "I come from a big family where every person is different with different skills. But at the end of the day, we're still a family. That's the way I see Oregon. I've been in 30 counties so far and each one believes they are on the wrong side of things. We are still one Oregon, however. Each with different problems."
   It is the leadership at the top that will make a difference in the way the state grows, the candidate said. Natural resource economy is what Oregon is built on. But today that economy is made up of forest products as well as food processing and high tech industries. "There is only one person that can provide the leadership to make it all work, the governor, and it all starts with education. Education is crucial. I don't believe in government handouts; everyone should have the opportunity to succeed and that means the opportunity for a good education. Oregon is currently doing a poor job in education."
   Education is a top issue for Saxton, he has a well laid out platform and speaks easily on the issue. "The first step is having a quality education is to assure that every school has a great principal, and every classroom has a great teacher. We must provide stable education funding to our schools, but that doesn't mean simply giving more money to our schools. We must spend our money wisely for the desired results."
   From that, he moves easily into his view on fiscal responsibility. "It is crucial that the governor understands the value of your tax dollar. Every dollar government spends i a dollar that comes from you. You have a right to know that your money is well spent and well invested. The last state budget grew by $1 billion and the year before it grew by $1 billion. That's not how you do business. At some point you have to ask, is it working? If not, you have to pull back and change directions. Government hasn't been working that way. We need a governor and legislature that'll take a different approach."
   When asked about his views on land use planning and LCDC (Land Conservation and Development Commission) Saxton admitted that his wife, Lynne, served on the commission for eight years. The original plan that made up Oregon's land use laws was good, he said. "But the way it has ben enforced is not."
   Saxton said he has a basic belief that government is not the answer to everything. Half jokingly, he said he'd like to see all state office buildings spread out around the state. "We have rules that call for 40 or 80 acre parcels in Powell Butte is because the people who work in offices in Salem don't understand about the land in Powell Butte. They need to get out and see what the rules are doing."
   Candidates have until March to announce their candidacy. Saxton has said he won't make a formal announcement until after the 2001 election. At this time, though, he believes it is important to get around the state and let people know he is running a statewide campaign. And to start building his name recognition.