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Kitz, Dudley should debate, debate, debate

Our Opinion

Democrat John Kitzhaber wants Oregonians to elect him governor once again. Republican Chris Dudley is telling voters that he is Oregon's best hope for a new leader.

But with the election less than seven weeks away, Oregonians should be growing increasingly frustrated with both candidates and with campaign strategies that prevent voters from seeing the two men side by side. Without such head-on comparisons, voters are unable to contrast the candidates and test their abilities to govern this state in such desperate times.

For the past month, Kitzhaber and Dudley have attracted criticism from many journalists and community leaders for their unwillingness or inability to agree to a number of geographically diverse joint appearances and debates. After recent criticism, a singular Portland-based televised appearance was scheduled. But we think this compromise just doesn't cut it.

We sense a growing harm and missed opportunity that may punish both Kitzhaber and Dudley - and the state. Oregonians are stymied by the ongoing recession. Throughout the state, there is a prevailing unease about the future and when (or whether) the economy will improve. Younger and older Oregonians are looking for work, but not finding it. People lack confidence that anything can be done to make the situation better.

During tough times such as these, we expect leaders to engage personally with the public, provide a sense of direction and priority and build confidence among citizens to move the state forward.

In a campaign for governor, that cannot happen in a vacuum - or with an absence of debate and comparison.