June 4th, 2009 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

2010 Gov's Race: Don't Count Peter DeFazio Out Yet

Peter Defazio

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber got the political chattering classes wound up with a recent address to the City Club of Portland. Kitzhaber's speech ramped up speculation that he'll again seek the office he held from 19945 through 20023. (The Oregon Constitution limits a governor to serving no more than eight years in any 12-year period so Kitzhaber is eligible for a mulligan).

Political insiders view Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) as potentially a stronger candidate in the Democratic primary than Kitzhaber because of his closer ties to labor. But the Hamletesque Congressman regularly ponders runs for state-wide office while never actually making them.

Behind the scenes, both Kitzhaber and DeFazio have been meeting with potential funders and interest groups to gauge support and although Kitzhaber's decision to address City Club might have seemed as if he'll be the anointed favorite, DeFazio appears to be keeping his options open.

After Kitzhaber's speech landed him on The Oregonian's front Metro page and headlined political blogs, DeFazio arranged last week to address the organization, says City Club executive director Charity Fain.

"We approached him initially to be a speaker," Fain told WW via email. "June 19 was the day that worked out."

Fortuitous timing, as DeFazio's decision to speak came after a closed-door meeting with Kitzhaber and his speech will precede the planned June 30 closure of the Legislature, which will kick off scrambling for the governor's race in earnest.

So why is DeFazio spending a summer Friday addressing a group 100 miles from his district instead of spending the day floating down the McKenzie River or otherwise exploring his district?

Here's what his spokeswoman, Molly Simmons says:
He addressed the House Democratic Caucus earlier this year to discuss his concerns with cap and trade and had an op-ed in the Oregonian. We continue to hear that people are confused about his position on the issue and thought the city club would be a good forum to clarify since a lot of liberals/progressives/democrats support cap and trade. He spoke at the city club a number of years ago to discuss his opposition to energy deregulation at a time when many liberals/progressives supported it.

He will also likely discuss the highway bill since the audience will want to hear from him about progress/outlook on the bill.

Asked whether the speech fits into his gubernatorial musings, Simmons declined to take the bait.

"No," Simmons says. "He is focusing on his job as a member of Congress."
 
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