Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oregon Governor Race

Race of the Day

Oregon Governor

September 22, 2010
41 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Leans Republican

The past two Gubernatorial elections in Oregon featured Republicans optimistic about winning the office for the first time since 1982, but ultimately, the state's liberal ethos prevailed and the Democrat won. Now, with unpopular Governor Ted Kulongoski term-limited, Republicans are more positive than ever about a change in Salem.

However, that was not the attitude a year ago, when popular former Democrat Governor John Kitzhaber announced he would be seeking his old job back. Though his successor Kulongoski had very low numbers, Kitzhaber had remained popular, and the physician retained the image of a non-politician, who had received high marks as Governor. With the former Governor running, a lot of Republicans figured it would be another four years in the wilderness. Kitzhaber faced primary opposition to his left from a statewide elected official this year, but was able to easily prevail.

After Kitzhaber entered the race, a somewhat large, but underwhelming GOP field emerged. It featured several Republicans who had lost statewide before, either in primaries or general elections. The race was shaken up though when financial advisor Chris Dudley entered the race. The Yale graduate was best known for a lengthy NBA career of mixed success. During his basketball journey, Dudley spent a couple stints with the Portland Trailblazers, and settled there after retiring in 2003. He also reached that high level in his sport, despite having been diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 16.

Dudley comes from a family background of some involvement in Republican political circles and was noted for charitable and community involvement during and after his pro basketball career. He still had to get through a May GOP primary, but name recognition and polls which showed him running surprisingly strong against Kitzhaber allowed Dudley to capture his party's nomination over his nearest competitor by bit over seven points. The general election matchup began looking surprinsly like a toss-up in a race that was not supposed to be competitive due to the perceived strength of the Democrat candidate.

Since the primary, Dudley has appeared to inch up towards more of a lead. Post Labor Day polls out from both SurveyUSA and Rasmussen now show the Republican ahead by five to six points, and perhaps more importantly, close to receiving 50 percent of the vote. The voters seem to be in the mood for change after eight years of the now quite unpopular Kulongoski, and Dudley's status as an outsider first time candidate seem to be working to his advantage. Kitzhaber may have been a popular Governor, who was able to succeed an unpopular retiring Democrat once before back in 1994, but that is appearing to be trickier this time.

If the polls are accurate, the GOP former athlete looks to be in very good shape to end a six term losing streak for his team in the state. At 6'11'', Dudley could lay claim to being the tallest Governor in American history. Another fun Dudley fact is that his wife is also named Chris. Have we ever had a Governor and a First Lady who share the exact same name? It could save the state money on stationary perhaps.

Dudley campaign link (he is advocating an "Oregon Comeback", but I think the Blazers may need even more help):

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D, 20 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 26 R