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Primary Governor's Race A Mix Of The Well-Known And The Unknown

The race for Oregon's next governor is packed.

A dozen candidates are listed on the Secretary of State's website — none from any minority parties.

But as Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, voters are very well acquainted with some of the candidates — like former governor John Kitzhaber. But others, like carpet cleaner Darren Karr, are unknown.

Oregon's current governor, Ted Kulongoski,  is term limited out of his job. Nine Republicans and three Democrats are after the governor’s seat.

Lets start with the Republicans.

At Allen Alley's campaign headquarters in downtown Lake Oswego, the doors are unlocked at 10 a.m.

Campaign aide: "Hey, how are you doing sir?"

Kristian: "Hey, Kristian. I'm here to see Allen….(Fade out)"

Inside,  a half dozen people answer phones and work on computers. In a back office, Alley and his chief of staff, Tim Maloney, go over an advertising supplement.

Tim Maloney"So the full text of Imagine Oregon will be in it.

Allen Alley: "Nice"

Tim Maloney: "The back will be our endorcements a little editorial from Debbie, the front will have the Dorchester Victory, the Walk Across Oregon….(Fade Under)"

Alley is perhaps best known for co-founding the local Portland company, Pixelworks. It employs about 250 people selling micro chips for flat screens and projectors. Alley is the CEO and says he wants to manage the state like a business.

Allen Alley: "And when I say CEO. I mean Chief Executive Officer. I mean Chief Excitement Officer. I mean someone that has some exciting new ideas about where we can take our state. I mean chief execution officer, put plans in place, hold people accountable, make things transparent  and execute to those plans. I mean an environmental officer and that's critters and bugs, but it's also a business environment. It's an environment where people can create jobs and careers. And it's an entrepreneurial officer, it's someone who's got fresh new ideas to Salem and do it in a way that we haven't done it in the past."

Alley says his top priorities are to increase jobs and cut taxes — a platform he shares with many Republicans, including William Ames Curtright.

I caught up with him by phone in his car,  on his way over the mountains. He was raised in Portland and started The Ames Research Laboratories in 1981 — where he developed products to waterproof walls, roofs and decks.

His first action as governor, he says, would be to get rid of the new tax Measures 66 and 67.

William Ames Curtright: "So we need to actually reduce taxes for corporations that would like to come and live in Oregon. We could draw some of them right out of Washington, because everybody's leaving right now and going to Washington. If we have less taxes here, we'll draw businesses to Oregon, that can hire people."

Curtright is not alone in his desire to get rid of Measures 66 and 67. That goal is included in the platforms of several Republicans. 

Former state legislator, John Lim, mentioned it four times during KGW's recent televised debate.

John Lim: "We need to take away 66 and 67. This is the monster. If we don't take it away — the chance is many businesses will go away from the state."

Standing next to Lim at the same debate was Chris Dudley. He enjoys great name-recognition from his days playing for the Trail Blazers. He focused on state spending and jobs in the KGW match-up.

Chris Dudley: "Quite simply, Oregon has not created enough jobs, I have a plan to change that. Our state budget is growing faster than we can afford. I have a plan to change that. Education is the key to our future, we need to reform our colleges and universities, I have a plan to change that."

Another Republican hopeful whose focus is shrinking government, is anti-tax crusader Bill Sizemore. He says Oregonians need to break the strangle hold that public employee unions have on the state.

Of course he's in a long-running legal battles with those unions: His organization was found guilty of racketeering in 2006 and he was recently indicted by the state on charges of tax evasion.

He dismisses all of the litigation as legal “hassles.”

Bill Sizemore: "All of the legal hassles are I think being seen, and rightly so by voters, as just attacks. That Bill Sizemore is enduring because he's had the courage to stand up to the public employee unions."

There are no minority party candidates running. Still, Darren Karr says he identifies himself as Independent, even though he’s running on the Republican ticket to improve his chances. He runs 'Dutch Boy' carpet cleaning out of West Linn.

Darren Karr: "Probably my main message that I'd like to get across during the time that we have here is that. The Republicans, we all know, we live in Oregon and we know what happens when the time comes to elect a governor — we get a Democrat. That's how it works. But what we know now, especially with the job situation with the way it is, that we really need to have some conservative leadership in this state."

Karr says he wants to reduce taxes and increase jobs.

Three other Republicans are also running. Clark Colvin runs a financial investment company, Bob Forthan is a state employee and Rex Watkins owns a real estate management company.

There are fewer candidates on the Democratic side of the aisle — largely due to the decision by former governor, John Kitzhaber, to run again.

At the end of his term eight years ago, Kitzhaber famously called Oregon, un-governorable.   

I caught up with him outside the Multnomah County Athletic club, where he'd just given a speech to some business executives.

John Kitzahaber: "I did at one point say that Oregon was becoming un-governorable and I believe that then and I probably believe that more today. We are going into a $2.5 billion revenue shortfall with a high unemployment rate and a state deeply divided.  And I think how we manage these next two years, will determine whether we'll go the way of California, which is a state that's in utter political and fiscal disarray, or whether we're going to come through this stronger and more united."

One of Kitzhaber's long-time  peers is running against him — Bill Bradbury, Oregon's former Secretary of State.

Speaking at the 'Washington County Public Affairs Forum' in Hillsboro, he said education funding, sustainability and the economy are foremost on his mind.

Bill Bradbury: "I have a long history of support for small business in this state which employs over 95 percent of people in this state. And is a critical part of our economic health."

Bradbury talked about a bill he championed that created small business development centers at every community college.

The only other Democrat trying to win the primary is Roger Obrist,  a retired custodian from the North Clackamas School District. Over the last decade, he's run for the state Legislature four times, once for the US Senate and now as a Democratic governor. 

Roger Obrist: "I've always felt that even the plainest, poorest person could serve the people, if they think he has the right stuff to do the job. I think I could do just as well as anybody else who wants to try and run."

Obrist says he wants to improve and stablize school funding and keep more water in the rivers for fish. But he concedes — he's a long-shot. 

The primary is next month.

The party’s nominees will then seek election in November.

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