Fit to be Tied

Last week’s gubernatorial environmental debate has both democratic candidates seeing green

April 6, 2010

When it comes to nabbing endorsements on being Oregon’s next governor, John Kitzhaber and his cowboy boots appear more like leather-clad steamrollers. In the past couple of weeks, he’s smashed his main democratic rival Bill Bradbury with nods from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Oregon Business Association.

But as for an official pat on the back from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, he’s hit a roadblock (albeit a minor one). This morning the group announced it’s endorsing both men for the job as our next Governor. The announcement comes on the heels of last Tuesday’s gubernatorial environmental debate, which OLCV helped organize.

In explaining their dual smoochie, OLCV points to both Bradbury’s and Kitzhaber’s solid track record as environmental stewards. While working as a state legislator in the 1980s, Bradbury took the lead on issues like the Salmon Trout Enhancement Plan and a moratorium on offshore drilling. Kitzhaber, the former governor, on the other hand, lead the charge for protecting areas like the Opal Creek Wilderness and the Steens Mountain, and his Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds helped create more than 90 watersheds around the state.

But the men aren’t exactly carbon copies of each other. During the debate the two sparred over prime-time issues like the Boardman coal plant (Bradbury, favors shutting it down by 2014, when PGE’s operating permit expires; Kitzhaber suggesting that closing the plant too soon could be hard on people’s wallets) and the LNG pipeline (Bradbury looks to stop it completely; Kitzhaber wants to keep his options open).

And while nobody likes a tie, Bradbury, who, two weekends ago, won a gubernatorial straw poll during the Bus Project’s Rebooting Democracy event in Bend, can probably most effectively spin this week’s announcement as a victory.

Still, that’s a celebration that’s likely to be short-lived. Because there’s one other area where Kitzhaber is undeniably more green: cash. As of this month, Kitzhaber has raised a total of $830,000, compared to Bradbury’s $325,000. Such a steady cash flow comes in handy when you’re looking to gas up your steamroller—and flatten your opponents.

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