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Richardson roars in cycle rally

GOP nominee promotes 'Oregon Reboot,' hits Kitzhaber on coal exports, federal logging


Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: PETER WONG - Republican gubernatorial candidate state Rep. Dennis Richardson spoke Monday to a small but enthusiastic crowd of motorcycle riders outside the Capitol in Salem, hitting his opponent, Gov. John Kitzhaber, on a number of issues.SALEM — A more combative Dennis Richardson took to the road Monday to draw sharper contrasts with Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber on coal exports, timber production and other issues.

Republican challenger Richardson, joined by others on various segments, rode a motorcycle from Southern Oregon to Portland while announcing the first part of his “Oregon Reboot.”

Among its points are Richardson’s embrace of the proposed Morrow Pacific project, which would move coal mined in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana by rail to the Port of Morrow in Boardman, where it would be loaded onto barges down the Columbia River to the Port of St. Helens for export to Asia.

Richardson also called for Western governors to join in pressing the federal government — and making their case in the national news media — for greater economic use of public lands such as logging.

“I’m done with debating, done with talk, done with promises made and not kept,” Richardson told about two dozen riders at a rally at the Capitol, where he has been a state representative from Central Point for 12 years.

“It’s time you have an executive who executes the changes we need in our state.”

One of Richardson’s few TV ads features him on a motorcycle.

He owns a 1976 Harley-Davidson Speedster — “they are fun to drive, but they are not comfortable” — so he rode a different bike almost all the way from home base in Central Point to his campaign headquarters. He switched to a Brammo Empulse, an electric vehicle made in Ashland, for the final leg of his 300-mile trip.

Contrasts with incumbent

Richardson’s remarks drew a sharp contrast with Kitzhaber’s stances on those issues.

Kitzhaber has opposed coal exports. Ambre Energy, the Australian company promoting the Morrow Pacific project, has appealed a state Department of State Lands decision to deny a permit for a coal-loading dock in Boardman.

“We’ve got a governor who says not on his watch are they going to allow coal, even though it’s fully enclosed and no negative effect on the environment,” Richardson says.

“I say if we can do it well, why shouldn’t Oregon do things? If we can create jobs and provide them in an environmentally sustainable manner, that’s what we ought to do.”

Kitzhaber has attempted to broker federal legislation to resolve the long deadlock over federal forests in western Oregon to allow some logging yet protect the environment. The House has passed one bill; a Senate committee is scheduled to take up a different version in a post-election session.

Richardson says while he’s still willing to talk with Congress and the president, he sees little prospect of action.

“We need to be in front of MSNBC, CNN and Fox News helping the rest of the country know that we are an American family that has members in Oregon with families in depression,” Richardson says.

“We’ve got counties that are going insolvent. We’ve got counties with inadequate public safety, where people are vulnerable because there’s no one there to answer the call.”

Richardson omitted mention of other controversial points in his platform, such as allowing use of federally unapproved medications for terminally ill patients and launching a new east-west highway linking the coast with Eastern Oregon.

He did restate a proposal to create an office of lieutenant governor — Oregon is one of seven states without one — to focus on international trade.

Richardson campaign manager Charlie Pearce says other sections of the Oregon Reboot, focusing on education and government changes, will be rolled out later this week.

State of the race

According to the latest reports on the Oregon Elections Division system, Kitzhaber, who is seeking a fourth nonconsecutive term, has amassed $3.7 million and spent $2 million during the two-year cycle. Richardson has raised $1.7 million and spent $1.5 million, leaving a balance of just under $250,000.

Richardson has been trailing Kitzhaber in independent public opinion surveys, though the gaps are closer than in the U.S. Senate race.

He has downplayed his party affiliation in a state that most recently elected a Republican governor 32 years ago. He has also downplayed his stances on social issues, such as opposition to abortion rights and criticism of same-sex relationships, and says the race is about the future.

Richardson says there’s a reason he has reserved his punchier style, with just four weeks before the Nov. 4 election and less than two before the first ballots go in the mail.

“People ask why didn’t I come out punching last December or May, but there were no ballots then that made a difference,” he said after the rally.

“I’ve been at this 14 months. The strategy is to punch when the ballots come out, because it will be then that people who are open-minded will be tuning in during the next few weeks — and determine the outcome of this election. That is what you will be seeing.

“People have come to the realization that Kitzhaber does not deserve a fourth term, so they need to know what is their option.”

pwong@PamplinMedia.com

(503) 385-4899

twitter.com/capitolwong

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