Gov. John Kitzhaber is doing something he didn't do often in his earlier two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003—he's raising money for legislative candidates.

State filings show Kitzhaber has raised $51,500 already this year; donors include Greenbrier Cos., with $7,500; NW Natural, $5,000; and shipyard boss Frank Foti, $5,000. Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael says the governor plans to raise more and wants to be active in the 2012 election cycle, supporting candidates who voted with him last year on education and health-care reforms. The governor has already held fundraisers this year for State Sens. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) and State Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem).

Another sign of how serious Kitzhaber is: He paid Josh Kardon, the influential former Chief of Staff to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, $10,000 this month to help with the fundraising. (Kardon says the assignment is a one-timer, not a continuing gig).

One possible use of Kitzhaber's growing bankroll is to replace potential contributions from the Oregon Education Association, the statewide teachers union that expressed displeasure with some Democratic lawmakers who voted for Kitzhaber's education reforms last year. 

Raphael says it's not yet clear specifically how the money will be used. "But (Kitzhaber) will use money to support candidates who are supporting reform efforts,"  he says.