PORTLAND -- The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor squared off in their only scheduled televised debate, Thursday at 7 p.m. at KGW Studios in Southwest Portland. Former Governor John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley participated in the live broadcast debate, sponsored jointly by KGW NewsChannel 8 and The Oregonian newspaper.
Early in the debate, Dudley responded to questions about his lack of experience by saying: "The past two governors have 60 years of experience between them, and here we are." He added: "We need experience from outside...a governor with vision."
Asked why he should be elected governor again, after serving eight years previously, Kitzhaber said that in light of the current economic crisis facing the state, "we need a governor with experience, who shares the values of Oregonians."
Jobs and the economy
Kitzhaber said Dudley would give a huge tax cut primarily to the wealthiest Oregonians that would do nothing to benefit the majority of middle class Oregonians.
Dudley said what distinguished him from Kitzhaber is that Kitzhaber "believes government and politicians create jobs", whereas Dudley said he believed the private sector and businesses create jobs.
Kitzhaber said Oregon suffered from an over-reliance on an income-based tax system. “I personally believe we have got to diversify our tax base,” saying it’s “a discussion we can no longer avoid.” Dudley responded that the state should “get spending under control first and then lets address the revenue side.”
In response to a question from an audience member who asked: "What's the biggest difference between the two of you?" Dudley replied: "Besides size?" He then emphasized his belief that Oregon needed to go "in a new direction" and that the biggest difference was that he would focus on job creation in the private sector.
Kitzhaber replied that Dudley indeed had a "younger face" but was selling "old ideas" that he said came right out of the George Bush era: "$800,000 in tax breaks, primarily for the rich, that have no real value for middle class Oregonians."
Campaigning and debates
On the topic of campaigning, Dudley criticized Kitzhaber and accused him of negative campaigning. Kitzhaber responded by saying Dudley had spent $3 million on TV ads but had only agreed to one televised debate. He then invited Dudley to join him at the City Club debate the following week. Dudley countered by inviting Kizthaber to join him for a debate in Medford.
Dudley, asked whether he believed in global warming and whether mankind was to blame, said: "Global warming exists. And mankind contributes. How much? I don't know." He said it made sense for Oregon and the country to strive to be self-sufficient and focus on points of agreement. Kitzhaber emphasized his belief that renewable energy sources like solar and wind represented a business opportunity to kick-start the Oregon economy.
Dudley was questioned about whether he avoided paying Oregon taxes by buying a home in Washington state while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. Dudley called the questions "unfair," and noted that he paid $400,000 in taxes in Oregon, and was taxed on every basketball game he played in Oregon. He said the bigger issue is that "taxes matter" and Oregon needs to re-examine how it taxes its residents.
Kitzhaber was also questioned about a loan he received through Jerry Bidwell, and repeated that there was nothing improper about the loan and that he had made all the relevant documents public.
Republican and former Trail Blazer, Dudley is raising more than two dollars for every one dollar raised by Democrat and former two-term John Kitzhaber in their race for the job of Oregon governor.
Dudley's campaign has raised $5.6 million as of Tuesday, more than double the $2.6 million in contributions reported by Kitzhaber.
Dudley promised to cut business taxes, restrain state spending and preserve the "kicker" rebates to taxpayers when tax collections are well above estimates. He said he'd do more to develop natural resources.
Kitzhaber has called for drastic "system changes" in the way the state government does business, such as budgeting as much as 10 years out and putting all education activities in one agency.
Dudley has been a financial consultant since retiring from the NBA in 2003 after 16 years, including six years with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Raw video: Dudley Closing Statement
Raw Video: Kitzhaber Closing Statement