Former Gov. John Kitzhaber moved one step closer to a comeback bid Friday, saying he is seriously considering a run for an unprecedented third term as Oregon governor.
Kitzhaber said he told current Gov. Ted Kulongoski he may enter the Democratic primary and will make a final decision shortly after the first of the year.
"The impact Kitzhaber has just talking about running is immense," said James Moore, a political analyst and professor at Pacific University. "It makes it very clear that people are hungry for someone other than Kulongoski to run, but that person has to be a major player."
Moore said no Democrats can really make a move in the primary until the former governor makes up his mind. "It's basically waiting for Kitzhaber."
If you recall, the Oregonian has played with this thought in the past, I blogged about it back in September. But this article seems more like Kitzhaber actually considering a run, and less like the Oregonian having a fun time speculating. MyDD discusses the political implications of a Kitzhaber candidacy.
In recent elections, Oregon's Democrats have had significant momentum, first forcing a 15-15 tie in the state Senate following the 2002 elections and then gaining control of that chamber, as well as narrowing the Republican lead in the state House, following the 2004 elections. But an all out war between Kulongoski and Kitzhaber, which seems likely should the former Governor enter the race, could stall that momentum as limited resources are expended in a drawn out primary and a schism is created between the two camps. All of the sudden, Republicans, who had been ostracized for their radical positions (primarily on social issues), would have a golden opportunity to reclaim power in the state.
Now it is true that a number of pieces would have to fall into place in order for the Republicans to make full use of this moment. These include avoiding the type of divisive primary that could afflict the Democrats. But even by giving the Republicans a glimmer of hope, the Democrats might be handing the GOP the catalyst necessary for them to get their act together. Specifically for this reason, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the Dems' ability to hold onto Oregon's governorship next fall.
Hopefully this doesn't mean that the football game between the Beavers and the Ducks will not be the only Civil War in Oregon. I heard Kitzhaber speak at the University of Idaho a couple of years back, and was very impressed with him. I like Kulongoski as well however, and to lose the Governorship because Democrats decided to self destruct over a viscious battle would be a real shame. I really do not want to feel like I have to add either Kulongoski or Kitzhaber to my candidates list. Given all that, I think I would prefer not to see a Kitzhaber run for the governorship. But if he did, I would most certainly support him.