SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Former Hewlett-Packard executive Steve Shields, a political newcomer who grew up in Marcola, Ore., plans to formally announce his candidacy for governor Thursday in a race that would pit him against two of Oregon's best-known Democrats.
On the Republican side, former Portland Trail Blazers center Chris Dudley is considering whether to seek run for the state's top office in 2010. Three other GOP candidates are already in the race.
In a statement, Shields acknowledged he has never held elective office. He said that's an asset because he's the only candidate "not stuck in the politics of the past."
However, if the past is any guide, both Shields and Dudley could face a tough task in trying to become Oregon's next governor.
The most recent governor who did not previously hold public office was Salem newspaper publisher Charles Sprague. He was elected to the top office in 1938.
The last time someone with no experience in elective office ran for governor was 1998, when anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore challenged then-Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber. Sizemore received the worst drubbing of any major party candidate in nearly a half century, losing to Kitzhaber by a 63-30 margin.
Shields is going up against two Democratic heavyweights — Kitzhaber, who served as governor from 1995 to 2003, and former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.
Dudley, if he runs, would bring name familiarity to the race given that he had two stints playing for the Trail Blazers, from 1993-97 and from 2001-03.
State Republican Chairman Bob Tiernan said the former NBA player is also known for his charitable activities and would be an "excellent" candidate despite his lack of experience in public office.
"I actually think it's an asset," Tiernan said Wednesday. "We've had 20 years of professional politicians, and I think that's hurt Oregon a lot."
Political analyst Jim Moore said while there are other states where political newcomers have managed to break through to top offices, that's usually not been the case in Oregon.
"For the past 70 years in Oregon, it's pretty much been that you have to have major government experience to get elected governor," said Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove.
(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press)