October 8th, 2010 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

A One-Man Show: Kitzhaber at City Club

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber shared the stage this afternoon with an empty lectern after Republican Chris Dudley declined to appear in a candidate forum sponsored by the City Club of Portland.

The empty podium left on stage by City Club wasn't the only dig at Dudley for being a no-show at the event in the downtown Governor Hotel.

KGW anchor Russ Lewis, the forum's "moderator" (do we really need a moderator if there's only one candidate?), also took a swipe at Dudley, saying "a two-person debate would have been more in keeping with the club's mission and voters' best interests."

But it was left to only Kitzhaber, a former two-term governor, to answer 11 questions from City Club panelists and staffers. There were no questions allowed from the audience during the forum, which was broadcast statewide by OPB.

Kitzhaber mainly repeated points he's already made on the campaign trail. Merit pay for teachers? He's for it, but not based on standardized-test scores. The Business Energy Tax Credit? He'd rather form "a thoughtful 10-year strategy to move toward a renewable economy." Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler's call for a halt to state borrowing? Kitzhaber supports it.

Kitzhaber was also asked about an unusual loan—first reported in WW—that he received from a Portland brokerage firm in 1999. Kitzhaber subsequently nominated the founder of the firm, Jerry Bidwell, to the Oregon Investment Council.

City Club asked why Kitzhaber did not simply apply for a standard loan, and also why he didn't disclose the loan when nominating Bidwell. Kitzhaber repeated his assertion that the loan was above-board, adding that he was not required to disclose it.

The room was filled with elderly Portlanders and members of the state's liberal political set. But Kitzhaber seemed to be using the opportunity to speak to voters statewide via OPB. In both his opening and closing remarks, he spoke of his days as an emergency-room doctor in Southern Oregon.

He started with a story of the first time he had to open a patient's chest. The patient was a gunshot victim in his early 20s. Kitzhaber compared that decision to the governor's task of fixing the state's $3 billion budget hole.

“We need to be right, because we're not going to have a second chance here," he said. "Those are the stakes for this state."

Kitzhaber closed with a story of an infant who died two days after being born. The child, named Sam, weighed only three pounds. His mother was anemic and had received no prenatal care, Kitzhaber said.

"It was an anonymous tragedy," he said. "Sam died more than 35 years ago. But those anonymous tragedies are still happening in our state, and they're accelerating."
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