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John Kitzhaber

John Kitzhaber in 2008

In office
January 9, 1995 – January 13, 2003
Preceded by Barbara Roberts
Succeeded by Ted Kulongoski

In office
Preceded by Edward N. Fadeley
Succeeded by Bill Bradbury

Born March 5, 1947 (1947-03-05) (age 62)
Colfax, Washington
Political party Democratic
Profession Doctor

John Albert Kitzhaber (born March 5, 1947 in Colfax, Washington) is a medical educator and was the 35th Governor of Oregon for two consecutive terms from 1995-2003. Prior to becoming a politician in Oregon, he was a practicing physician. He graduated from South Eugene High School in 1965, Dartmouth College in 1969, and Oregon Health & Science University with a medical degree in 1973. Kitzhaber practiced medicine from 1973 to 1986 in Roseburg, Oregon as an Emergency Room Physician.

Kitzhaber began his political career in 1979 as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives for one term. In 1980, he was elected to the Oregon State Senate, where he served three terms from 1981 to 1993, and he was the president of the Senate from 1985 until 1993. As Oregon Senate President, he was the chief author of the state's government-funded healthcare plan, the Oregon Health Plan.[1][2][3]

Kitzhaber married Sharon LaCroix in 1995. They have one son, Logan, who was born in October 1997. The couple sought a divorce in 2003, soon after the end of his second term as governor.

He has filed to run for a third term as Oregon governor in 2010.[4]




First term, 1995-1999

In 1994, Kitzhaber won the Democratic Party nomination for governor when the Democratic Incumbent, Barbara Roberts, withdrew from the race in January of that year. Roberts opted against a second term after voters refused to pass a sales tax to fund the Oregon Health Plan and she was forced to break her campaign promise not to cut spending. Kitzhaber won the general election in November 1994 with 51% of the vote, defeating the Republican candidate Denny Smith who received 42% of the vote.[5] Ballot Measure 11, which applied mandatory minimum sentences for certain convicted criminals, passed in the same election. Measure 11 necessitated additional prisons to house the expected influx of long term inmates. Many communities lobbied to be chosen for a prison site; rural communities, in particular, considered a new prison a way to boost the local economy. Kitzhaber countered that the Portland metro area should not be allowed to "export" its problems to other areas of the state. In the end, he chose a prison site in Wilsonville on the southern fringe of the Portland area. That choice drew opposition from residents, who claimed it was too close to a school. After months of contention, a different site in Wilsonville was selected for the new prison.

During his first term, Kitzhaber undertook several policy initiatives including the expansion of the Oregon Health Plan. He also helped initiate the Oregon Option, a cooperative approach with the federal government that attempted to increase accountability and reduce bureaucracy related to the delivery of a number of government services. During Kitzhaber's first term, the State of Oregon reduced the number of welfare caseloads more than 50 percent, saved more than $200 million in the state budget, and helped nearly 20,000 Oregonians find work. Kitzhaber also introduced the Oregon Children's Plan, which was designed to identify and assist at risk children and their families.

Stable funding for higher education was another issue for which Kitzhaber advocated. He pushed for implementation of the Education Act for the 21st Century and he increased investment in Oregon's colleges and universities. However, due to the lack of stable funding for higher education, there were several large increases in tuition in Oregon's Higher Education Institutions during Kitzhaber's tenure.

Second term, 1999-2003

Republican anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore challenged Kitzhaber in 1998. Sizemore had founded Oregon Taxpayers United, a political action committee that lobbied against tax increases and promoted ballot measures limiting the use of union dues in political campaigns, in 1993. During the general election, rumors circulated about Sizemore's allegedly controversial business practices in his personal life, as well as in the operation of his political action committees and non-profit educational foundation. In the end, Sizemore provided only a token challenge and received 30% of the vote to Kitzhaber's 64 percent.[6]

Kitzhaber developed several policy initiatives related to natural resources during his two terms as governor. The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds attempted to restore dwindling runs of endangered native salmon species to Oregon's rivers and streams. The plan was a collaborative effort that encouraged federal, state and local government agencies to work with private landowners to restore watershed health and recover endangered salmon runs. Kitzhaber also took a high profile and controversial stand in favor of breaching several Northwest dams to help restore salmon populations.

Managing growth, particularly in the Willamette Valley, drew Kitzhaber's attention as well. A staunch supporter of Oregon's comprehensive land use system, he fought against attempts to weaken its protection of farmland and enforcement of urban growth boundaries. Kitzhaber also created the Governor's Growth Task Force and the Willamette Valley Livability Forum to help gather accurate information and outline integrated approaches for developing sustainable communities. His related Community Solutions program attempted to focus the efforts of numerous state agencies, other governments, and interested groups in collaborative problem solving and coordination to manage various community development projects across Oregon.

In spite of his many policy initiatives, much of Kitzhaber's tenure as governor was spent on the defensive with the Republican controlled legislature. He earned the nickname "Doctor No" from critics who pointed to his record number of vetoes. Kitzhaber engaged in numerous skirmishes with anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore and with members of the Republican majority in the legislature over the appropriate role and size of state government.

Kitzhaber's popularity fell as Oregon's economy declined in the final years of his administration. It was eroded further by gridlock between the executive and legislative branches. Five contentious special legislative sessions in 2002 seemed to illustrate the futility of the stalemate. In the midst of the turmoil, Kitzhaber's supporters claimed that he was making a stand on principles. His critics lamented his perceived failure to engage legislators in a dialogue about how to fix the state budget.

Under Oregon's constitution, Kitzhaber could not seek a third consecutive term in 2002.

Post governorship

Dr. Kitzhaber speaking with Dr. David Schleich at the National College of Natural Medicine promoting the Archimedes Movement, a health care reform movement.

After leaving elected office in January 2003, Kitzhaber was named President of the Estes Park Institute, a Colorado based education organization for community hospital and healthcare leaders.

Kitzhaber serves as the Director for the Center for Evidence Based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon. He holds an endowed Chair on Health Care Policy with The Foundation for Medical Excellence,[7] an Oregon based public, nonprofit educational foundation.

On January 13, 2006, Kitzhaber launched the Archimedes Movement, an organization seeking to maximize the health of the population by creating a sustainable system which uses the public resources spent on health care to ensure that everyone has access to a defined set of effective health services. The goal is to create not only this vision for a more equitable and sustainable system but also the tension necessary for its realization. A legislative proposal that took input from many Oregon residents was introduced in the 2007 Oregon legislative session.[8]

The Oregon Better Health Act failed to pass the 2007 Legislature after Kitzhaber was unable to overcome concerns raised by AARP about his inclusion of Medicare in his plan.[9] Another health reform bill, a Senate proposal which was amended to include portions of the Archimedes Movement bill, passed instead.[10]

With the withdrawal of Tom Daschle's candidacy for United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, there was speculation Kitzhaber could be tapped for the position.[11][12] However, Kitzhaber denied interest in the position and said that he was not being vetted.[13]

2010 Oregon gubernatorial race

In September 2009, Kitzhaber filed to form a campaign committee to run for a third term as governor in 2010.[4]

See also


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Barbara Roberts
Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
Ted Kulongoski


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