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Matthew Hein

What is so great about Oregon, anyway? We have this crazy unemployment rate, an economy that produces little other than bleak projections and a national reputation as crazy eco-frontiersmen. We refuse to pump our own gasoline or pay sales taxes. Our coastline is more or less public property.

These are the things that come to mind when considering our fair state and its affairs.

What is the word that might spring off the lips of most Americans when considering Oregon? “Rain.”

And what are the words that ought to be upon every tongue in the nation when the Beaver State is considered? “Sexy governor.”

Yes, it rains here. It’s generally not the kind of rain that comes out of nowhere and crushes everything in its path. It just isn’t exactly bathing suit friendly. For the next eight or nine months, we won’t have the same options as the actors and models who throw their heads back and laugh as a deluge transforms their everyday clothing into clingy shreds. It feels good for a couple of seconds, but by the time the bus comes, the effect tends toward that of a homeless cat (which is, frankly, not so sexy).

It is precisely this lack of sensuality in our long dark autumns and winters that requires us to get our ya-yas out somehow. For the last eight years, we have been able to look to our political leadership in Salem for a little hormone help. In Gov. John Kitzhaber, Oregonians have finally found a man worthy of our lust as well as our trust.

Before he went into state politics, Dr. Kitzhaber practiced medicine around Roseburg for a decade. This puts him in the fine company of some of America’s sexiest celebrities. Not many of them have spent a lot of time in small towns outside of Eugene, but a rainy day spent flipping the television dial brings hospital room upon hospital room onto the screen. The show may be “ER,” “Scrubs,” or that old standby, “General Hospital”; it doesn’t matter. Doctors are sexy and Kitzhaber used to work as a doctor; ergo, Kitzhaber is sexy, Q.E.D.

Our man in Salem even has a cool nickname. Due to his continued use of the executive veto, he has gained the moniker “Dr. No.” Now, there may be nothing particularly wrong with President Bush’s nickname, but “W” (or “double-you”) is just a little too abstract to get my pheromones doing the phreak. Of course, there’s also something strangely appealing about the way Kitzhaber employs his veto power. He tells the state legislature what he will and won’t accept, then sticks to his word. The man isn’t just playing coy. He’s got it, and he knows how to use it.

Do I need to mention the jeans? Whatever Michael Jordan did for Nike, our governor does on a daily basis for Levi’s – except get paid for his sartorial choices, of course.

Accepting honorarium from a huge company while in office just for looking good might not be legal. And Dr. Kitzhaber is all about being legal. He is some kind of heavenly combination of doctor, lawyer, small town boy and savvy civic servant in jeans and a mustache. In short, the man is hot.

On President Bush’s last visit here (you remember, the big Republican fund raiser that turned downtown into a hostile and entirely unsexy place for a day?), “W” said some silly things about public land and the environment and big business. Gov. Kitzhaber is usually a very understanding man, but the President really got to him.

The president’s plan involves exempting the timber business from environmental regulations and the lawsuits that often seem to be the only way to get business to abide by those laws. Kitzhaber, on the other hand, has spent almost

a decade working with other Western governors, land managers and businesses to come to some consensus on forest issues. Kitzhaber told the Oregonian that when he had tried to explain the importance of consensus and compromise in this area, Bush “just kind of looked at me.”

Now, when a dedicated doctor with piercingly intelligent eyes just sort of looks at you, you breathe a little sigh and know that you’re in good hands. When President Bush sends you a squinty, blank stare, you’re just glad you live in Oregon. Here, for another couple of months, we have our own little corner of sexy sanity – and someone to dream about when the inevitable rains threaten to bring gloom to our hearts (and other organs).