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Democrats should choose Kitzhaber

Our Opinion

Oregon is a state on the edge. It is on the edge of a continuing and long-term public sector financial crisis. It is on the brink of economic recovery opportunities that should link sustainability and job creation in both rural and urban communities.

Oregon is at an educational crossroads that should result in balanced commitments to K-12 schools and higher education. And it is a state - like many - that will need to foster further investments in aging infrastructure and localized health care reform.

In the May primary election, voters will decide which Democrat and which Republican candidates are best suited to address these issues, lead Oregon and compete in the November general election. We believe that the Democrats' best choice is John Kitzhaber.

Next week, we will offer our assessment and endorsement of Republican candidates for governor.

Realism of a veteran governor

Kitzhaber, who served as Oregon's governor from 1995 to 2002, faces significant opposition from former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Meanwhile, Roger Obrist, a retired Damascus-area resident and frequent candidate for political seats, is running a limited campaign.

Kitzhaber earns our endorsement based, in part, on his knowledge of what it takes to be successful as the state's chief executive. Yes, he did the job for eight years and enjoyed both good and bad days as governor. But we are convinced that Kitzhaber will be a better governor this time around. He is highly energized. He appears better able to connect, not only intellectually to the issues that face Oregon, but also to the people of this state and their needs.

Kitzhaber fully understands that some solutions will come only with compromise and tradeoffs. And we think he is realistic in his belief that Oregon will have to make tough choices about what it can fund and what it cannot.

We value - and believe voters should too - Kitzhaber's commitment to invest in all levels of education, from preschool to graduate school. And we are impressed that he recognizes it is time for Oregon to engage in strategic planning and budgeting that lasts longer than two years. Kitzhaber doesn't pledge simply to solve fiscal shortfalls by proposing new taxes. Instead, he favors job creation, expansion of the state's rainy day fund and improvement of government operations.

Bradbury has strengths

Bradbury is a formidable candidate and a great Oregonian. He was an early-on leader for sustainability issues, and for many years he fostered efforts to improve fish runs in Oregon, Washington and California. He is a staunch supporter of K-12 education. And he is proposing that the state create a Bank of Oregon to invest in businesses based in Oregon.

Bradbury's support for education includes a commitment to improve K-12 funding by almost $1 billion per year - an increase approaching 33 percent more than current levels. He says these funds can come from cutting tax breaks provided individuals and businesses.

But while Bradbury is a highly energized advocate of the issues he supports, we believe he is less likely to accept the compromises necessary to be an effective governor. We also are concerned that his pledge to support massive new funding for schools -while a useful campaign tactic - is not a well-considered fiscal or tax strategy for all of Oregon.

In the May primary election, Democrats should give John Kitzhaber their support.