May 29th, 2009 5:33 pm | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

John Kitzhaber And The "Elephant In The Room"


For someone who once called Oregon "ungovernable," ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber sure sounded ready to run for his old job in an appearance today at the City Club of Portland.

Kitzhaber, whom insiders say is already out soliciting endorsements for another gubernatorial run in 2010, was introduced as the "only person who can tell you for sure" if he will or won't run again.

Yet he never mentioned a run in his speech outlining three major unfinished political challenges for the Baby Boom generation — public education, the environment and health care.

Nor did Kitzhaber, at 62 a member of that Baby Boom generation, take the bait when former City of Portland lobbyist Marge Kafoury started off a question-and-answer session after his speech by saying she wasn't going to ask Kitzhaber about "the elephant in the room" (another run).

It took a small scrum of reporters after Kitzhaber's speech and the audience Q & A that followed to ask explicitly what his plans were. Here's what the Democrat had to say about running in 2010:

"I am looking at the possibility. I have not made any decision," Kitzhaber said, adding that he expects to announce his decision at the end of this legislative session.

Kitzhaber, who was governor for two terms before the current governor — Ted Kulongoski, says the politics are much better aligned in Salem than he was in office (i.e., there are more of his fellow Democrats in the state Legislature than when he said near the end of his second term that the state was "ungovernable).

Asked what he's learned since he left office in 2003, Kitzhaber said, "I learned you've got to have long-term thinking. I recognized having good ideas wasn't enough."

His speech to City Club was infused with the "long-term thinking " theme. Kitzhaber focused his remarks on the debate over the systems of health care and public education. Kitzhaber said both systems have failed to identify their goals, thus trapping them in an endless and fruitless debate that never solves the problems.

He perhaps left a couple of clues as to what his final decision may be on a run when he said, "The challenge here at the end of the day is one of governance."

Kitzhaber also quoted three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan saying, "Destiny is not a a matter of chance. It's a matter of choice."

And now Oregon waits to see whether Kitzhaber will choose to again accept that challenge of governance.
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