Former Portland Trail Blazer Chris Dudley officially announced his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination
today at the North Portland campus of Self Enhancement, Inc.
In front of an overflow crowd of about 150, former Blazers announcer Bill Schonley introduced Dudley, who he says "has never been afraid to take on the biggest guy or challenge."
Dudley, who has never run for office or been actively involved in politics, kept his hands in his pockets for much of his speech. The Yale graduate, who played 16 years in the NBA, stuck close to GOP talking points, pledging to create jobs, streamline government and cut taxes, without offering details.
He was most specific about higher education,
saying he would push for the adoption of former University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer's recently announced plan to break up the current centralized university system and allow each campus far more autonomy. "I would embrace Frohnmayer's blueprint," Dudley says.
He also pledged to rein in public employee employee benefits, whose growing share of public sector budgets Dudley called "the elephant in the room."
The crowd, which included Kerry Tymchuk (former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith's state director) and leading GOP state Sens. Frank Morse (R-Corvallis) and Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro), gave Dudley several standing ovations, the loudest of which came when he said "trust in government must be restored and people must believe politicians are doing the right thing for the right reasons."
One interested observer was former State Rep. Jeff Kropf
(R-Sublimity), who is the state director for Americans for Prosperity and a morning talk show host on KUIK (1360 AM). Kropf heads the tea-bagger movement in Oregon and is a leader of the GOPs conservative wing.
Kropf says he has not decided who he'll support in the GOP primary, as House Minority leader Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) and possibly others may still jump into the race. Kropf says he was impressed by Dudley.
"I like what he says to say about restoring integrity to government," Kropf says.
Kropf and the rest of Oregon is waiting to hear where Dudley stands on abortion, which remains a litmus test for many GOP voters. One possibility as the race takes shape is that he and former Pixelworks CEO Allen Alley
, who entered the race in February, split the moderate vote leaving the field open to a more conservative candidate such as Hanna.
"I think the mood of the people is growing more conservative," Kropf says. "Whether the [Republican] party and its candidates are is another question."
Dudley did not take questions after his speech but promised more specifics soon. His friend Schonley made perhaps an inadvertent gaffe when he speculated about the future.
"If Chris makes his free throws, things will look good for all of us," Schonley said. But of course as any hoops fan knows, Dudley was known of one of the worst free throw shooters
in NBA history.