Letich's run for governor

March 04, 2005 12:00 am

Dr. Gordon Leitch isn't quite a favorite son candidate from Baker City, but only because he wasn't born here.

Leitch operated an ophthalmology practice in Baker City from 1976 to 1985 and still maintains a residence here.

But Leitch's appearance last week — and assurances from Gov. Ted Kulongoski's office that he would, in fact, seek re-election — confirmed that Baker City will be back on the gubernatorial radar in 2006.

Kulongoski, you'll remember, hosted one of his numerous inauguration parties in Baker City in January 2003. And with Democrat Pete Sorenson cropping up on Kulongoski's left, the sitting governor may look to shore up support from the center and swing voters. That could be a powerful tool in ongoing disputes between Eastern Oregon and the Capitol over wolves, chukar hunting and land-use planning.

But Leitch's connection is more direct: he lived here, and he's a candidate for the Republican nomination. That party tends to win better than 60 percent or more of the local vote, regardless the race.

Still, Leitch has a long row to hoe. The chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, Kevin Mannix, lost narrowly to Kulongoski in 2002. He may be tempted to make another run, bringing to the primary the twin advantages of being a party insider and an experienced candidate.

And other GOP stars now in the state Legislature may use this session to send up trial balloons by engaging Kulongoski or other lawmakers in a high-profile ideological battle.

To compete, Leitch needs to work on his stump speech and better connect with average Oregonians.

While his theories about linking salaries and consumer prices to the value of precious metals are interesting, any proposal that would turn a "paper" income of $20,000 into a "true" income of barely $1,000 is likely to fall on confused ears.

It's still early, however. We'll be watching Leitch as he puts together his run and either influences the debate — or earns the GOP's nomination.