Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Kulongoski has a valuable edge in this year’s primary elections, an endorsement from Governor Kitzhaber, D-Ore.
Kitzhaber stated in a press release, “We need a governor with the integrity of a judge and the wisdom of a self-made man. We have an Oregonian that fits that description. His name is Ted Kulongoski.”
Kitzhaber was referring to Kulongoski’s service in the Oregon Supreme Court and his early years working to pay his way through college.
Kulongoski explained in an interview Thursday he and Kitzhaber developed a good working relationship over many years and share some values. In particular, they agree on the environment and their commitment to working people.
Kulongoski singled out the Oregon Health Plan and the Oregon Salmon Plan as areas that he has been especially pleased with Kitzhaber’s performance.
Kulongoski believes Kitzhaber endorsed him partly because of their agreement that “Oregonians can take care of themselves and know what’s good for them.”
He said, “At the end of my 10 years of governor if I have the same track record as he does I would be very happy.”
Education is a top priority in Kulongoski’s campaign for governor. He said, “As governor, ‘good enough’ will not be good enough. We will strive for excellence!”
He agreed that the current condition of higher education needs improvement, and said, “Oregon needs public and private leadership that recognizes the importance of education and its role in contributing to a more fair and just society and building a diversified and stable economy.”
Kulongoski expressed concern about the needs of students and their ability to get an education. He said, “Access, the financial ability of our citizens to obtain a quality higher education, must always be a priority.”
He also supports administrative and financial independence for educational institutions. “I believe the individual campuses must have greater discretion to adapt to the changing needs of their students and our business community,” he said.
He continued, “Stronger partnerships between our citizens, government at all levels, our private business sector and higher education must be developed to ensure the economic and social viability of higher education in Oregon.”
When discussing Portland State, Kulongoski said, “Portland State must be given the opportunity and ability to become a major urban-research university. I am committed to that objective.”
On the subject of the economy Kulongoski acknowledged that difficult times lay ahead. He said, “The governor [Kitzhaber] has been the governor in a time of great economic growth in the last 10 years. I’m coming in on the other side of the issue and that is that it’s going the other way.”
He explained that, as governor, he would face different issues than Kitzhaber faced and therefore would “look at things differently.”
Kulongoski is a strong supporter of higher minimum wage citing the fact that Oregon had one of the highest accounts of economic growth in the country after the state minimum wage was last raised.
Kulongoski calls himself, “the candidate of working men and women in Oregon.”
Although Kulongoski acknowledges that gaming is a major factor in the Oregon economy, he does not support state-sponsored gaming. He said, “I don’t think that the purpose of an industry is based solely on how much money it could bring in.”
The candidate explained, “What we’re trying to do with our young people today is to tell them to stay in school, study hard, obey the rules and the value we’re having them try to understand is that effort determines outcome. You can do and be whatever you want if you work hard. They engage in a business industry that advertises ‘no that isn’t true, it’s all luck; buy a lottery ticket.’ I just think it’s totally inconsistent and it’s wrong.”
However, as a former chairperson of the governor’s taskforce on gaming, he recognized that gaming is the sole source of revenue for many Native American reservations and he supports recognition of the independence of tribes within Oregon and their right to engage in lawful gaming.
He said, “I believe Governor Kitzhaber’s indian gaming policy of ‘one casino per tribe’ serves the interests of the tribes and the state.”
Kulongoski also said that there will be nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon engaging in gaming in the near future.
Speaking of the “war on terrorism,” Kulongoski admitted that the current situation is a very difficult one. He supports President Bush in his decision to invade Afghanistan and believes that the threat of terrorism is real.
When asked how he would support the civil liberties of Oregonians regarding the “Anti-terrorist Bill” he replied, “I think all Oregonians are entitled to the same protection of the rights of the constitution.”
However, when asked if he supported the Portland police department’s refusal to question foreigners in a joint federal, state and local investigation, he said, “I support the attorney general’s position.”
According to a November memorandum released by Attorney General Hardy Myers, he directed the Department of Justice’s investigators to assist federal agents in conducting interviews regarding international terrorism.
Kulongoski has held numerous government positions in Oregon including state representative, state senator, insurance commissioner, attorney general and Oregon Supreme Court judge.
He and his wife currently reside in Southeast Portland and have three grown children.
To learn more about Kulongoski, visit his Web site at www.tedforgov.com.