Gubernatorial candidates agree on key issues

A day after the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates made their first joint appearance at the party's "Summit" conference in Sunriver, the trio had an encore performance Monday at the Jackson County Democrats' fall fundraiser in Jacksonville after the original keynote speaker fell ill with flu-like symptoms.

As the last-minute substitutes for Attorney General John Kroger, candidates Bill Bradbury, John Kitzhaber and Steve Shields were able to begin wooing a sold-out dinner of 200 of the party's faithful at Jacksonville's United States Hotel Ballroom.

All three were in agreement about the most critical issues facing Oregon: unemployment, an unstable tax system and scaled-back services in public education, public safety and health care.

"What I didn't hear and wanted to hear were specifics on how they are going to resolve the state funding problem and make it stable," said Paulie Brading of the Jackson County Democrats.

Brading gave each candidate questions to answer about seven hours before the event.

The questions centered on how each would reform the state's tax system to create more stability and how each would go about improving Oregon's per capita and median income, which trail most other states.

All three candidates emphasized the importance of voters approving tax measures 66 and 67 in providing more stability to the system, but said the job doesn't end there.

The tax measures will raise $733 million in new revenue and balance out the share of income tax residents pay according to earnings.

Kitzhaber said that to raise income Oregon must offer a "world-class work force," which can be accomplished in part by ensuring that Oregonians are entitled to at least two years of post-secondary education.

Bradbury suggested creating jobs by further developing Oregon's green industries such as salvage timber that can be made into products such as furniture that sells for more than the timber alone would.

"We need to create more businesses that compete nationally and internationally," Shields said. "The reason we need to do that is we are a small state, and we need to bring income in from outside of Oregon."

Kitzhaber and Bradbury had planned to attend Monday's fundraiser to hear Kroger, so when Kroger called in sick, the Jackson County Democrats had to scramble to get Shields on the guest list, Brading said.

"We are grateful they were so flexible in their ability to extend their remarks and help out John Kroger," Brading said.

In November 2010, the Democratic favorite will face off with one of three Republicans running for governor — state Sen. Jason Atkinson, Central Point; businessman Allen Alley and former legislator John Lim.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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