Gubernatorial candidates face off a week before election day

On Wednesday, the Vanguard met up with gubernatorial candidates Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber to discuss their campaigns and issues affecting Oregonians, particularly students in higher education.

On Wednesday, the Vanguard met up with gubernatorial candidates Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber to discuss their campaigns and issues affecting Oregonians, particularly students in higher education. The interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.


VG: What are you doing in preparation for Nov. 2?

JK: At this point, most people have made up their minds. It’s really a matter of getting people to turn in their ballots, and so we have spent most of our time with voter turnout. What we’ve done, all summer long, is we’ve been calling people to try to identify folks who are going to vote for me…[and make] sure they get their ballots in. Were at the phone banks every night and most of the day…Tuesday, we were in Ranier, Astoria, Tillamook, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Beaverton.

VG: How would you compare this campaign to your last one?

JK: Well, this is a much more challenging campaign. I ran in 1980 against Bill Sizemore, who wasn’t particularly well funded. Chris is new, doesn’t have the kind of record with Oregon that Bill did, and has got probably over $9 million now…He’s new, and he’s tall!

VG: My readership includes a lot of students, so I have some questions about education. I asked Chris Dudley some of these questions, too. Let me ask you about your weatherization program…is that mainly K-12?

JK: No, I think we’re going to start there; a lot of our college building is a little bit newer than some of the K-12 building, but the idea is to start with K-12 and then take it right through to community colleges and higher education, because there’s opportunities to put people back to work and to make the schools better learning environments, more energy-efficient.

VG: More people are returning to school because the economy is bad…there’s been an influx of new students. Will there be jobs for the outpouring of graduates?

JK: Well, there’s two pieces here. One is creating opportunities for new jobs, to match the work force coming out of community colleges. There’s a couple of really high-demand job areas that aren’t getting filled, even in this recession…metal workers, welding, repair…trying to match the training with available jobs is one thing. There’s about a 30 percent unemployment rate in the trades right now, so they would benefit tremendously from the weatherization program that I’ve been talking about. The other thing we need to do is think ahead about where the job growth is going to be two, three years from now. Clearly, it’s going to be in nursing and in allied health fields. It’s going to be in clean energy and renewable energy. So, it’s very, very important that we focus, to some extent, on trying to make sure we have the work force necessary for the jobs that are going to be developing.

VG: Right now, the Oregon University System restructuring is being talked about a lot. What do you think?

JK: I do think that the universities need more operational autonomy. The governance structure is not unlike that of a state agency, and that dates back to the days when 70 percent of the funding came from the state. They’re not really state agencies any more, and they’re really micromanaged. So they need more flexibility to raise other funds and make decisions and get out from the state procurement rules. But I still think we need a state system…I’d still make sure that the state had oversight in terms of tuition policy, make sure that students had financial access and make sure that the university system is still delivering what the state needs from the system of higher education.

VG: Should a set percentage of state funds be going toward higher education?

JK: I do believe that we have to provide some degree of stability to the funding source, because while a lack of resources is a problem, inability to know even from semester to semester how much money you have creates bizarre things like raising tuition in the middle of the semester. So I do agree that whether it’s a fixed percentage or a certain amount that’s indexed to economic growth, we do need to provide a stable floor in this next session for our universities and for our K-12 system as well, and our community colleges.

VG: So why should I vote for you and not Dudley?

JK: Well, there are three [reasons]: The first one is I do think experience matters in this job, particularly going into a huge budget crisis with a significant unemployment problem. Chris has never created any private sector jobs, he’s never managed a budget and I don’t think he has the training for this job. Secondly, over half of his proposals raise money without providing a way to spend for them, to pay for them and that’s not exactly what we need to do during a recession. Third, I have a long history in Oregon of supporting middle class jobs, middle class families, a woman’s right to choose [and] protecting the environment. Those are Oregon values, and I think those are fundamental differences between the two of us in this race.

VG: What do you think PSU’s role in Oregon should be?

JK: We’ve got three large universities in Oregon; we’re at a time where we need to do some additional collaboration. I think, obviously, international trade is a huge issue; urban design [and] urban development is a huge issue that’s important at PSU. The other thing that I think we need to think about is some sharing on things like engineering degrees. I mean, OSU has a school of engineering; [PSU has] Intel nearby and a real demand for engineers right here in Portland…It seems that some collaboration could be developed to try to make sure that we can provide the high-tech workforce for all these new jobs that Intel in particular will be creating.


VG: What needs to happen in your campaign before Nov. 2?

CD: Right now, it’s keep getting the message out, it’s getting out the vote, it’s getting across the state. Just last week, we ran a 30-staff, 20-county tour.

VG: Any obstacles remaining?

CD: I think the message is clear; it’s, listen, if you’re comfortable with where we are today, then vote for my opponent, but if you think that we need to go in a new direction, that we need to fundamentally make some changes, then, let’s go. To me, it’s that simple.

VG: Well, I haven’t decided yet, myself.

CD: I encourage people who are undecided to go on the website, look at the plans I’ve outlined…I’m proud of the fact…that our education plan was looked at by a bi-partisan national group called Education Reform that went around and looked at the various gubernatorial candidates, and ranked their platform[s] on education. [It] gave us an A [and] gave my opponent an F.

VG: The Oregon University System is looking at restructuring. What are your thoughts on that?

CD: I’ve been strongly supportive of the idea of freeing the university system from legislative micromanagement. They’re under [the control of] 6,300 line items in the budget. They need freedom. When I’ve talked with the various university presidents—I’ve talked with the chancellor—I encourage them to get together and have one plan that they all agree upon, which they’ve done, and I would call it the community college model, because it’s similar to how we run our community colleges right now…Education is critical to our future, and especially higher education.

VG: What do you see as PSU’s role in the state of Oregon?

CD: That’s an area that I will work with [Portland State] President Wiewel on; I’ve talked with him, and we’ve talked about this. That’s something that’s part of the process with the seven universities, is making sure that they don’t necessarily overlap, but they have strengths in each university, [so] when you put them as a whole, you excel in all areas. Portland State has done a great job of being a top-class university in the city of Portland.

VG: How could we do better? How would you be involved?

CD: The first piece is giving [PSU] that freedom to make choices to allow the president to be in charge, rather than the legislature. Let the president make the decisions on how best to improve the university.

VG: Why vote for you and not Kitzhaber?

CD: To me…we’re living in the future that he created. He had eight years. He has a record, in those eight years; I don’t think it served us well. I think there’s a reason we’re 42nd in employment, 43rd in education, [first] and [second] in hunger and homelessness. We need someone who’s willing to change the system, not someone who represents the system.


VG: What is your bureaucratic experience like?

CD: I went to Yale [and studied] economics and political science; I played in the NBA for 16 years; I was treasurer of the union; after I retired from the NBA, I took my CFP. I was senior vice president of the firm M Financial…I’m the president and head of a foundation for kids with diabetes…so that’s my experience, as well as running the campaign, being an Oregonian and having kids in public schools.

VG: You’re probably aware of furloughs and how the University of Oregon did not take furloughs this past year. What are your thoughts?

CD: I haven’t been involved in the details of it, so before I reach too far…I would say that I understand the concern, that if the state is asking across the board for its employees to share in the sacrifice, that it be seen as everyone’s doing.

VG: Returning to the restructuring conversation, do you think a set percentage of the state budget should go towards higher education?

CD: Well, I think we’re going to have to be creative in how we fund higher education; I think there’s been 20 years of disinvestment in higher education.  I think it should be a top priority. Do we get to the point where we establish a set percentage or set dollar amount? We’re going to have to look into what makes the most sense in that regard.

VG: What’s been really controversial lately has been the claim that you want to decrease minimum wage. Can you respond to that?

CD: It’s false. The other side knows it’s false, yet they still want to run with it. It’s an unfortunate part of politics. I do not want to do anything to the minimum wage. I support the minimum wage. I do not think waitresses are overpaid.