On Environment, Oregon Governor’s Race Candidates Take Very Different Stances

Oct. 4, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – In a state known for taking the green initiative, the two major candidates for governor this year have taken very different stances on the environment.  On issues from offshore oil drilling to the science behind global warming, the positions of Oregon gubernatorial candidates John Kitzhaber (Democrat) and Chris Dudley (Republican) have become clearly evident in the lead-up to next month’s election.

If elected to the governorship, Kitzhaber says he will work to create jobs in the clean energy sector, weatherize school buildings to make them more efficient, and support a ban on offshore oil drilling along Oregon’s coastline.  Kitzhaber, who served two previous terms as governor between 1995 and 2003, has also been praised by environmentalists for his track record on salmon conservation, protecting waterways from pollution, and helping to pass the Oregon Recycling Act.

In contrast Dudley, a basketball player entering into politics for the first time, has declined to make the environment a priority issue.  Dudley has been vague about his stance on many environmental questions, but has said he would cut funding for water quality protection programs, and that he wants to see fewer environmental regulations put on Oregon’s timber and agricultural industries.  Dudley also opposes statewide efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and is against a ban on offshore oil drilling. 

When asked during a recent gubernatorial debate whether he believes global warming is caused by human activity, Dudley responded that, “I’m not sure how much is man-made and how much is natural.”

During the lead-up to the gubernatorial primaries last spring, Dudley declined to attend a debate on environmental issues at Portland State University.  The debate was attended by both front-running Democratic candidates—Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury—and by Republican primary candidate Allen Alley.  After winning the Republican primary in May, Dudley has remained hard to reach when it comes to environmental issues.  Newspapers like the Oregonian have asked him to respond to questions about his stance on the environment, but have received relatively few concrete answers.

Unsurprisingly, Kitzhaber has received the endorsements of Oregon’s major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.  Meanwhile Dudley has drawn the support of timber companies and of industries that want to see clean air and water laws loosened. 

After a televised debate last week between Kitzhaber and Dudley, Jon Isaacs of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters explained why he supports Kitzhaber.  “Oregonians,” said Isaacs, “can count on John Kitzhaber to promote a balanced approach [to the environment] that creates good paying jobs, strengthens the economy and makes Oregon a healthier place to live and work.” 

Photo credit: Nick Engelfried

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