Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Dennis Richardson, a longtime state lawmaker, believes incumbent John Kitzhaber is vulnerable

By Jayson Jacoby


Dennis Richardson walks into the interview with his back straight, seemingly unaffected by the weight of 32 years of Oregon political history on his shoulders.

Richardson, a Republican state representative from Central Point, hopes to accomplish what no other member of the GOP has done in Oregon since the late Vic Atiyeh in 1982.

Richardson wants to be Oregon's next governor.

To earn that office in the state Capitol in Salem, Richardson, 64, has to contend not only with a generation of Democratic dominance but also with the man who is responsible for more of the party's victories than any other candidate.

Richardson is trying to deny John Kitzhaber an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon's chief executive.

Kitzhaber, 67, served two consecutive terms as governor from 1995 to 2003.

Then, after another Democrat, Ted Kulongoski, served two terms, Kitzhaber was re-elected to a third term in 2010.

But Richardson, who has served as a state lawmaker from Southern Oregon since 2003, believes Kitzhaber is "much more vulnerable" than he was four years ago.

In 2010 Kitzhaber defeated Republican Chris Dudley, a retired NBA basketball player and political newcomer, by fewer than 23,000 votes, a margin of less than 1.5 percent.

Richardson, who stopped at the Herald office during his busy Miners Jubilee weekend schedule, contends that Kitzhaber doesn't have the same level of support from traditional Democratic backers such as the Oregon Education Association.

Richardson also believes that party affiliation - both his and Kitzhaber's - is not as vital this year as in previous gubernatorial campaigns.

"There has been a lessening of emphasis on party in Oregon," Richardson said. "I'm not running as a Republican against a Democratic. I'm running as an Oregonian who wants to show Oregon citizens a new kind of leadership.

"Non-affiliated voters, independents, and those Democrats that want a different vision for the state will vote for me."

See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald.