Walker ends bid for governor

SALEM, Ore. – State Sen. Vicki Walker said Wednesday she’s decided not to run for governor this year and instead will seek re-election to her Senate seat this fall.

For months, the Eugene lawmaker has been pondering whether to challenge Gov. Ted Kulongoski ?” a fellow Democrat ?” in the May primary election. She has been critical of what she has called Kulongoski’s lack of leadership on issues such as education and health care.

At a news conference Wednesday, Walker conceded she was having trouble raising money from Democrats around Oregon for a possible gubernatorial bid.

Walker said she decided that mounting what could be a losing bid for governor would have forced her to give up her Senate seat and leave people in her district without representation from someone who is willing to “challenge the status quo.”

“It takes campaign money to get your message out” in a statewide race, Walker said. “I’m not one to go after a goal if I cannot achieve it.”

At this point, Walker’s exit from the Democratic gubernatorial race leaves Kulongoski facing a challenge from Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson, who has been in the single digits in polls of Democratic voters.

Walker said she thinks it’s possible that former State Treasurer Jim Hill might get into the race, which she sees as another sign of Democratic dissatisfaction with Kulongoski.

Hill, who finished second to Kulongoski in a three-way gubernatorial primary in 2002, has said he’s considering the race.

But political analyst Jim Moore said that with the state’s March 7 candidate filing deadline drawing closer, it’s doubtful that Hill is going to start a campaign for governor at this late date.

Moore also said that Walker’s departure from the governor’s race, coming on the heels of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s recent announcement that he’s not going to run against Kulongoski, is another favorable development for the Democratic incumbent’s re-election bid.

“Vicki Walker would have made the race very personal, and it’s very difficult for any incumbent to deal with that,” Moore said.

Walker contributed to former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s political demise in 2004 by helping a newspaper obtain court documents about Goldschmidt and the 14-year-old girl he sexually abused while he was mayor of Portland”

Walker also said Kulongoski had been too chummy with Goldschmidt, whom she said was part of an “old boy network” in state government.

Walker won’t have a free ride to re-election to her Senate seat. Jim Torrey, the Republican former mayor of Eugene, has filed for the seat.

A former top aide to Kulongoski, Peter Bragdon, recently drew fire from Walker and some Lane County Democrats for organizing a fundraiser that helped raise nearly $50,000 for Torrey’s campaign.

Still, Walker said Wednesday she feels good about her prospects for defeating Torrey and winning another term in the November election.

“I’m a really good campaigner; I’m good at what I do,” she said.