Gov. John Kitzhaber, never known as an enthusiastic fundraiser, is racing out of the gate as he begins the campaign for what would be an unprecedented (in Oregon) fourth term.
Kitzhaber has already raised more than $414,000 in 2014, according to filings with the elections division, compared to $61,000 for the leading GOP candidate, State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point). That gap will widen significantly over the next month because the Legislature began its 35-day even-yeared session today and House rules prohibit members from raising money while in session.
Kitzhaber's fundraising looks different this cycle, in part because of what's happened since he won in 2010. That year, he depended on millions from Oregon public employee unions and the Democratic Governors' Association to eke out a victory over the well-financed Republican challenger Chris Dudley.
Since then, Kitzhaber advocated successfully for significant cuts to public employee retirement benefits, which will make unions less enthusiastic about supporting him this year. The benefit to him of those cuts is that he's enjoying much stronger early support from business supporters than he did last time around.
Kitzhaber this week reported a $25,000 contribution from Survey Monkey founder Ryan Finley; $25,000 from businessman Junki Yoshida; and $25,100 from the Greenbrier Companies. It's notable as well that Kitzhaber's receiving checks from people who were significant Dudley donors in 2010, such as Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle (he gave $52,000 to Dudley in 2010 but recently gave Kitzhaber $25,000) and Portland investor Peter Stott ($21,000 to Dudley in 2010, recently gave Kitzhaber $10,000).
The recent activity leaves Kitzhaber with $547,000 on hand and Richardson, $120,000.
Republicans will try hard in the current session to make the well-publicized Cover Oregon debacle stick to Kitzhaber but it appears at least so far, donors are not buying that narrative.