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Rivalry aside, Bradbury hails Kitzhaber's accomplishments

Bill Bradbury and John Kitzhaber were close friends and political rivals during three decades.

Bradbury also was the immediate predecessor as secretary of state to Kate Brown, who became governor Wednesday morning after Kitzhaber resigned amid influence-peddling allegations against him and first lady Cylvia Hayes.

But Bradbury had no bitter words after attending Brown’s oath-taking ceremony in the House chamber at the Capitol, where all three Democrats started their state political careers.

In fields such as the environment and health care, Bradbury says, “his incredible contributions to Oregon … will be recognized in time.”

Bradbury says he attempted to reach out to Kitzhaber during the time preceding Kitzhaber’s resignation, but never got a response.

Bradbury, now 65, is one of Oregon’s two members of the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council. He was appointed by Ted Kulongoski just before Kulongoski left the governorship and Kitzhaber took over in 2011.

Bradbury was a first-term state representative from Oregon’s south coast in 1981, when Kitzhaber was a first-term senator from Roseburg. Kitzhaber had been in the House two years earlier.

Their political partnership blossomed in 1985, when Bradbury was elected to the Oregon Senate and Kitzhaber became its president. Two years later, Bradbury became Democratic majority leader and Kitzhaber remained president — and they ran the Senate until Kitzhaber left in 1993.

Bradbury had a term of his own as Senate president in 1993, but after Republicans won a majority in the Senate the following year, Bradbury resigned from the Senate in 1995.

Kitzhaber brought Bradbury back into state government as secretary of state in 1999, after Phil Keisling resigned with slightly more than a year left in Keisling’s second term. Bradbury won two full terms on his own in 2000, and again in 2004, after Kitzhaber left the governorship. Because of term limits, Bradbury was succeeded by Democrat Kate Brown in the 2008 election.

Bradbury sought the Democratic nomination for governor in the 2010 primary, but Kitzhaber mounted a comeback and defeated Bradbury in a campaign that got personal at times. Kitzhaber then went on to win a record third term as governor.

Bradbury says Brown, who has had Bradbury’s former job for six years, is “well prepared” for the job, given also her 17 years in the Legislature. Almost nine of those years were as Senate Democratic leader, the same job Bradbury had between 1987 and 1993.

As secretary of state, Bradbury says, succession to the governorship “is something you always consider, even if it’s in the back of your mind.”

Of Brown’s 11 predecessors going back eight decades, four were elected governor — Earl Snell, Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall and Barbara Roberts — and four others including Bradbury failed in bids of their own. One of those four was preparing to run when he and Gov. Snell died in a 1947 plane crash.


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