Democratic incumbent is party's first cross-nomination for governor.

Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber now has the nomination of the Working Families Party, the first time it has designated a candidate for governor.

The party has just under 10,000 registered voters in Oregon, compared with 821,000 Democrats.

Party Chairman Jeff Anderson says Kitzhaber earned the cross-party nomination for several reasons, including support of alternatives to the high cost of college. Kitzhaber signed a 2013 bill directing the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to set up a pilot project under which the state pays tuition and fees in exchange for a specified percentage of a graduate’s future wages.

“He is a strong advocate for the party’s priority issues, tackling the student debt crisis with the Pay It Forward program and improving wages and benefits for working Oregonians,” says Anderson, who is secretary-treasurer of Local 555 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

A party spokesman says Kitzhaber also supports a requirement for paid sick days for workers. A House committee heard but did not advance such legislation in 2013. Connecticut is the only state with a requirement, but numerous cities have it, including Portland, where it took effect Jan. 1.

Under a 2009 law, candidates may receive the nominations of three political parties, which would be listed next to their names on the ballot. Oregon has what is known as “fusion light,” as opposed to New York’s law, which gives parties their own lines for candidates on the ballot. Votes cast for those candidates on separate party lines are added together.

Kitzhaber is seeking a fourth nonconsecutive term as governor. He was cross-nominated by the Independent Party in 2010, when he was elected to a record third term. But Republican rival Dennis Richardson, a state representative from Southern Oregon, won the Independent Party cross-nomination for the Nov. 4 ballot.

The Working Families Party cross-nominated 47 candidates in 2012, 35 of whom won. It has nominated 59 candidates this year.

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Adds governor's support for paid sick days as a basis for Working Families Party endorsement.

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