Kitzhaber will run again for governor

SALEM — Democrat John Kitzhaber has announced he will run for a record-setting third term as Oregon governor.

Kitzhaber, who left office in 2003, said today the state and nation face "tremendous challenges" and that he believes he can bring political change to Salem to solve those problems.

Only one previous Oregon governor has ever tried for a political comeback — and Tom McCall was defeated in that attempt in the 1978 Republican primary.

Several other Democrats, including veteran Congressman Peter DeFazio, are considering running for governor next year. The only announced Republican contender at this point is Allen Alley, a former high-tech businessman who ran for state treasurer last year.

Kitzhaber, 62, is a former emergency room physician who gained a reputation as a defender of the environment and an advocate of expanded health care for the needy during his years as governor.

He served in the Legislature 14 years, including eight years as president of the Oregon Senate, where he was the chief author of legislation that transformed a traditional Medicaid program into a broader Oregon Health Plan to cover more working poor Oregonians.

He was elected governor in 1994 and re-elected in 1998 by the largest margin for a governor in 48 years. Since leaving office he has been a leading advocate of change in health care — but also passed up earlier races for U.S. senator and his old office four years ago.

Kitzhaber is a strong supporter of President Obama and earlier this year was mentioned was as possible candidate for two different Cabinet posts in the Obama administration — interior secretary or health and human services chief.

However, Kitzhaber said at the time he would be willing to serve as an adviser to the Obama administration but didn't want to make a fulltime move from Oregon to Washington, D.C.

Instead, he's made it known for months that he was interested in possibly running again for governor.

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