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Lights Out

A greener Bradbury electrifies enviros. But a new poll shows Kitz has the juice.

There is no clearer distinction between the two Democratic gubernatorial candidates than their positions on energy.

Former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury talks forcefully about the choices Oregon faces on two high-profile energy projects: proposed liquefied natural gas terminals; and, the state's biggest fossil fuel-burning plant—an existing coal-fired plant in Eastern Oregon.

"I was the first elected official to oppose the siting of LNG terminals on the coast of Oregon," Bradbury said at a debate sponsored by five environmental groups last week. "It doesn't make sense to extend our fossil fuel dependency…instead of developing the incredible energy resources we have here."

Bradbury also advocates closing Portland General Electric's Boardman plant when the coal-fired facility's operating license comes up for renewal four years from now.

"I believe very strongly we have to close that plant by 2014," Bradbury told the crowd at Portland State University.

John Kitzhaber—who pleased enviros but angered business when he was governor by proposing to rip out the Snake River dams—takes more equivocal positions on both issues.

"I don't support the proposed LNG plants here," Kitzhaber said, before adding, "I'm also not willing to say we will never have a need for LNG in the future.… I wouldn't slam any doors at this point until we are sure we have other sources."

Kitzhaber is equally cautious on Boardman. The plant is the largest single source of carbon emissions in Oregon and a key source of haze in the Columbia Gorge. It's also the state's cheapest fossil fuel-burning plant, which the utility says keeps costs down for customers.

"I wouldn't start by saying we're going to close by 2014 and we'll figure out how to deal with the damage after that," Kitzhaber says. "We have to make sure that the two groups that are really going to get hammered in the transition [are accommodated]—one of which is industry that are energy users…the other is low-income households."

While Bradbury's answers generated warm applause at the debate, Kitzhaber's responses elicited silence.

There are a couple of possible explanations for the candidates' divergence on energy heading into the May 18 primary.

Bradbury's campaign manager, Jeremy Wright, says his boss is simply the stronger environmentalist.

Josh Kardon, former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), says Kitzhaber is taking a pragmatic approach based on what he can actually deliver. "He has warned his staff that he won't make promises that he can't keep," says Kardon, a Kitzhaber adviser.

Kitzhaber's acknowledgment of both employers and ratepayers on the Boardman issue marks a departure for the man who put fish first when he was governor from 1995 to 2003.

Staking out the middle may mean Kitzhaber has evolved. It also may mean the primary is over and Kitzhaber is positioning himself for the November general election. (The Oregon League of Conservation Voters didn't reward Bradbury's green stances. On April 6, the group endorsed both men.)

Wright confirms that the Oregon Education Association paid for a poll for Bradbury after endorsing him in early March (see "Hot for Teachers," WW, March 10, 2010). Bradbury has neither disclosed that contribution or any other support from OEA. Insiders say that's because the poll shows Kitzhaber ahead by 30 or more percentage points. (Wright declined to divulge the poll's results.)

Kardon says Kitzhaber's refusal to veer left on the environment in the primary, as Democratic candidates usually do, will help him this fall.

"John has succeeded in running his general election race in the primary," Kardon says. "It appears voters have appreciated that, and it has left him extremely well positioned for the general election."

Trail Mix

Politics in small bites.
  1. Rex Burkholder, one of three candidates running to be Metro Council president, admitted Tuesday that he made an untrue claim in his Voters’ Pamphlet statement. As first reported at, Burkholder wrote under “Occupational Background,” that he “Co-founded Cloudburst Recycling.” Cloudburst is an eastside residential recycling company co-owner David McMahon says was founded in 1975. Burkholder came to work there around 1980. “Rex called me a week or so ago and said he made an ‘editing lapse,’” says McMahon, who still endorses Burkholder. “I think it was a sincere error, although it seems astonishingly careless. ” In none of his prior Voters’ Pamphlet statements for successful elections to Metro Council did Burkholder claim to have co-founded Cloudburst or even to have worked there. So what’s changed? Burkholder says he wanted to show he hasn’t always been a government employee and has experienced the difficulties of working for a struggling new business. But he acknowledges his statement is false. “It’s a mistake and I take full responsibility, ” he says. “I should have read it before it went out.”
  1. In the eight-candidate field racing to fill Jeff Cogen’s seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, Tom Markgraf stands out from the crowd on one count—how much he collected consulting for the Columbia River Crossing project. Records from CRC show Markgraf’s company raked in 910,409 from the controversial project. Markgraf says that money was paid over six years he worked as a communications consultant on the CRC. “I worked with the community and got the word out,” he says, “so it was pretty intense work.” Image courtesy of
  2. Close watchers of campaign expenditures may have noticed that several House Democrats, including Reps. Jules Bailey and Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) and Tobias Reed (D-Beaverton) disclosed repeated expenditures of $300 to an entity called “Produce Row LLC.” Produce Row is of course the name of a venerable inner-eastside bar. But fortunately for the lawmakers’ livers and reputations, it’s also the name in this case of a company owned by Democratic activist Randy Miller, who rents office space to various Democratic electeds. 

The Money Shot

Big vets' charity goes political.

Later this month, 2,700 National Guard members will return from Iraq.

So what's up with Oregon's largest veterans charity? It's unclear because the Oregon War Veterans Association hasn't filed a tax return for a couple of years. In 2006, the OWVA showed income of just $114,000. Yet on March 30, the group made a hefty $30,000 donation to Kevin Mannix's Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance. That is the only cash contribution the Anti-Crime Alliance has reported this year.

The political donation is puzzling when veterans are needier than ever. Common Cause Oregon's Janice Thompson notes that OWVA's designation as a 501(c)(19) group under Internal Revenue Service regulations offers it an unusual advantage. Contributions to OWVA are tax deductible but the group, unlike other charities, can spend up to half its money on political activities.

OWVA executive director Greg Warnock says his group has been active both in advocating for veterans in Salem, and aiding soldiers with care packages and airline tickets. Warnock attributes the tardy tax return to understaffing but says OWVA increased fundraising tenfold to $1.2 million last year. As for the $30,000 donation, Warnock explains that Mannix's group helped him pass veteran-friendly legislation in February.

Other recent OWVA political contributions: