At 4:30 p.m. September 8, Jeff Scroggin fielded calls through an extension phone propped above one shoulder. Meanwhile, the Talent resident glided through cramped spaces in Jackson County Democratic Headquarters’ Medford storefront, setting up rows of folding chairs. Next he taped a dark blue sign to the rostrum. It read “John Kitzhaber for Governor 2010.”
Describing himself as simply a local volunteer, Scroggin then extended welcomes to early arrivals, requested their signatures on visitors’ lists, and answered various questions. Shortly afterward, Matt Davis, Field Organizer, mingled among the crowd seeking to recruit campaign helpers.
At five p.m., Jackson County Democratic Committee Chair, Allen Hallmark, introduced the guest of honor. Hallmark reminisced briefly about days when he worked as a news reporter in Medford. “Back then we had ‘Kitz’ and ‘Katz,’” he recalled, referring to former state legislators Kitzhaber and Vera Katz. He noted Kitzhaber’s years of service in a Roseburg hospital Emergency Room, confirming “he’s really familiar with Southern Oregon.”
Sporting trademark blue jeans, tie-less shirt, and dark jacket, John Kitzhaber entered to applause of scores of enthusiasts who’d crammed adjacent rooms and corridors to overflowing. Oregon’s in a downward spiral, the candidate said. We need to change the trajectory so our kids are ready to learn when they start school. “All qualified high school graduates should receive at least two years of college to help equip them with jobs skills.”
In keeping with that logic, he disdains spending more on building jails than on education. “We can manage the correctional system without erecting more prisons,” he said. “People need better educations so they can get better jobs.”
“We have a discrepancy between public resources, and human needs,” continued the politico probably best known for authoring the Oregon Health Plan. “We can weather a deficit. It’s critical that we balance the budget within the next eight months.”
He compared this current campaign to the story of two resumes. “You can’t do it with 30-second sound bites.” He defined himself as ‘the real Oregonian,’ having lived here since childhood. He pointed out that he’d served the public in an ER, in the legislature, and for eight years as Governor. In that capacity, his staff asserts he presided over eight years of significant economic growth. Compensation increased 49 percent; the state’s economic productivity increased 48 percent; and more than 125,000 jobs were created.
“Chris (Dudley) came from another state, and admitted he moved across the border into Camas, Washington when the Blazers hired him,” said Kitzhaber. “That way Chris could dodge paying Oregon state income taxes.”
Replying to an audience member’s question about his opponent’s demeaning TV ads, Kitzhaber said, “There’s a difference between getting elected, and actually leading the state.” He elaborated on the “resume” analogy by commenting the Blazers hired Dudley because he could shoot baskets, not because he had skills in government.
One woman questioned why the 2% “kicker” refund couldn’t be directed toward savings. Kitzhaber said he had favored setting up a rainy day fund in the ‘90s. “They wrote the kicker into the State Constitution,” he said. “We’d have it a lot easier today if we’d saved state money when economic times were better.”
His literature recommends reading his plans for Oregon at www.johnkitzhaber.com. Following Wednesday’s session, the optimistic looking candidate departed for a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner.
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent