LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. - Republican Chris Dudley conceded the race for governor to Democrat John Kitzhaber Wednesday in an evening news conference.
The former NBA star said he called Kitzhaber and wished him well and congratulated him on a well-fought campaign.
The numbers, Dudley said, just weren’t going his way and it was time to concede the race so the state could move on.
“I’ve had a tremendous opportunity, and I just feel so blessed to have gone through these past 11 months. My family and I have made thousands of friends across Oregon,” Dudley said.
“It's been an incredible experience for all of us."
He said he’d worry about why he didn’t win later. “We really haven’t had time to let the dust settle yet.”
Because of the closeness of the election he said the voters sent a message to Salem that both parties need to work together.
“We’ve got some serious issues facing our state and people want our state, our leaders to work together and address the issues at hand,” he said.
He said he hopes that Kitzhaber will reach out to the entire state and not just to Multnomah County and other areas in which he did well.
While he didn’t say he’d never run for governor again, Dudley said he wasn’t going to worry about that for now when reporters asked him if he’d consider another run. He said he was proud of his campaign and the thousands of people who supported him.
Dudley took the lead Tuesday night and held onto it until Wednesday evening when votes from Democratic stronghold, Multnomah County, swung the election in Kitzhaber’s favor.
Despite numerous calls and e-mails asking for a quick comment, Kitzhaber’s spokeswoman, Jillian Schoene, e-mailed back saying “see you tomorrow,” referring to a planned news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday at Tanner Springs Park in Northwest Portland.
Kitzhaber is the first governor in Oregon history to be elected to three terms and one reason he ran for his old job was because he was looking forward to working with a Democratic majority in Salem. But after Tuesday’s election, it looks like there may be split chambers.
Even though Kitzhaber wasn’t saying he’s the next governor Wednesday, two Oregon State Troopers were checking his neighborhood and property that night.
Ron Saxton, KATU’s political analyst and former Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he was surprised by how close the race stayed. He also said Gov. Kitzhaber is going to have his hands full.
“John Kitzhaber is going to go into this with a Legislature that appears to evenly divided in both houses. I don’t think that’s ever happened before,” Saxton said. “And so, you’re going to have an inability to use the party machine to push things around. You’re going to have to work in the House and work in the Senate. They’ve got a very challenging agenda ahead.”
He said he was most surprised that the revolution that swept across the nation didn’t happen in Oregon. He pointed to the fact that all of the congressional incumbents in the state won re-election.
KATU Anchor Steve Dunn and KATU reporter Meghan Kalkstein contributed to this report.
Update 6:45 p.m. - Chris Dudley plans to hold a news conference in Lake Oswego tonight at 7:15 p.m., according to a campaign press release to "offer remarks on the outcome of the election." KATU.com plans to stream his remarks here.
Update: 6:14 p.m. - Kitzhaber is now leading Dudley in the race for governor, 664,845 to 659,362, according to the secretary of state's office. Latest results.
Update: 6 p.m.
PORTLAND, Ore. - The state waited anxiously Wednesday for votes to be tallied in the race for its next governor.
Democrat John Kitzhaber was slowly chipping away at Chris Dudley’s lead as Multnomah County worked its way through more than 90,000 ballots it received on Tuesday. Kitzhaber had 651,953 votes to Dudley’s 656,597 as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The secretary of state’s office said there was just over 100,000 votes to be counted statewide, 45,850 just in Multnomah County. The county most likely won’t be done tallying votes until Friday, according to Andrea Cantu-Schomus, director of communications for the secretary of state. She said getting a final vote total by Thursday is hoped for, however.
Those who have worked tirelessly on Kitzhaber’s campaign were glued to their computers monitoring election returns.
“I think the trend we see right now is good news for John,” Kitzhaber spokeswoman Jillian Schoene said. “We feel really good about the trend based on the data we have.”
She said she sees the flood of ballots in Multnomah County as an indication the campaign’s field operations were as robust and aggressive as they wanted them to be.
Kitzhaber was spotted with his girlfriend outside his campaign headquarters but didn’t speak to the media. He was headed to the airport to drop off his sister who was visiting from Idaho. Dudley didn’t speak to the media either even though he was ahead. His campaign said he was at home and Dudley’s wife said he was working out.
On Tuesday night Dudley was very confident about the numbers as he addressed a crowd of supporters at the Rose Garden.
“We’ve run the numbers every which way. We’re up now; we’re going to be up tomorrow. We feel positive about that - just wanted to come out and (it) maybe till tomorrow, but there’s no doubt which way it’s going,” he said.
Bob Tiernan, the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, said he spoke to Dudley in the morning and Dudley told him “he feels it in his stomach that he has won.” But it could be several days before the outcome of the race is known and Tiernan said it could be as long as a week or two.
According to the Republican Party, there are lawyers ready to fight for Dudley if the margin of victory is under 7,000 votes.
Update 4:30 p.m. - Multnomah County most likely won’t be done tallying votes until Friday, according to Andrea Cantu-Schomus, director of communications for the secretary of state.
She says getting a final vote total by Thursday is hoped for, however.
She says the delay is because Multnomah County received 91,000 ballots on Election Day alone.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, there were 140,000 ballots still to be counted statewide, but Cantu-Schomus says the secretary of state’s office is expected to get updated numbers from counties at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Because Multnomah County leans heavily Democratic, it is possible the vote totals will swing in Kitzhaber’s favor, giving him a victory. Latest vote results for Oregon governor.
Meanwhile, Kitzhaber will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday, according to a new release from his campaign. The release did not say what he would say.
UPDATE: At 2:20 p.m., the Oregon Secretary of State's office released a vote total on their website that showed Kitzhaber had indeed narrowed Dudley's lead, with only about 10,700 votes seperating the two candidates but still in Dudley's favor. Exactly how many ballots remained to be counted is not known.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Democrat John Kitzhaber was whittling down a slim lead by Republican Chris Dudley as the last ballots were being counted statewide in the race for governor.
Most of the remaining ballots were in Multnomah County, where Kitzhaber was heavily favored among the large Democratic majority in Portland.
With nearly 1.3 million ballots counted, Dudley had just over 49 percent while Kitzhaber had a little over 48 percent of the vote.
But roughly one-fourth of the Multnomah County ballots had yet to be counted by 9 a.m. Wednesday, and Kitzhaber was outpacing Dudley by nearly 3-to-1.
The website noted that the totals were "unofficial." The gap had been 15,000 votes earlier in the day.
The former two-term governor Kitzhaber and the political rookie Dudley have spent a combined total of at least $15 million on their campaigns this year.
Pacific University political science professor Jim Moore said a sluggish turnout by independents hurt Dudley, because those independents tend to vote Republican. This year's governor's race is one of the closest in recent history, Moore said, and could mirror other state and national elections in which Democrats eked out victories by narrow margins.
"The common thread it shows is that Oregon is an evenly divided state in terms of party identification," Moore said. "The rest of the nation looks at Oregon and says it's blue, blue and bluer, but it's actually pretty equally divided."
Democrats hold a 200,000 voter-registration advantage over Republicans in the state, but independent voters make up about 20 percent of the electorate.
"A big number of unaffiliated voters are sitting this one out, and that hurts Dudley," Moore said.
Whoever wins will face a tough task after the victory celebration - how to make wrenching changes in Oregon's state government and schools.
The state faces a budget gap expected to be as much as $3 billion when the Legislature begins writing a new budget next year.
Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, leaving office after the two straight terms allowed by Oregon law, has described Oregon's budget situation as heading for a cliff.
Twice this year, as state finances deteriorated, he's called for across-the-board budget cuts that have resulted in teacher layoffs and a prison closing. He and a board of advisers have said sterner measures will be required next year.
Neither candidate has been willing to thoroughly describe what sort of changes Oregonians could expect and how wrenching they would be.
Dudley's campaign centered on cutting business taxes. He said investors lack confidence in Oregon because of business tax increases the voters approved in January, and that lack of confidence has contributed to the state's weak recovery from the Great Recession.
Kitzhaber's campaign focused on "systems changes," for example, redesigning the state's education system under one governing body from preschool through postgraduate, and setting the state on a 10-year budget cycle.
Dudley argued that Kitzhaber had his chance in the 1990s as governor, and it didn't turn out well: The state economy went into a tailspin at the end of his tenure, and Kitzhaber described Oregon as "ungovernable" because of excessive partisanship and the lack of flexibility imposed by initiated measures.
Kitzhaber said his tenure was marked by boom times in Oregon, thanks to the growth of the high-tech Silicon Forest. He said that he would be ready from "Day One," while Dudley, never in public office, would suffer because of his inexperience.
There was close-quarters, elbows-flying campaigning that's not common in Oregon politics. Dudley faced allegations that during his basketball years, he moved to Washington state to avoid some Oregon taxes and got a $350,000 tax deduction for allowing the Lake Oswego fire department to burn his house for a training exercise. Kitzhaber faced questions about state contracts obtained by a company owned by Kitzhaber's longtime girlfriend.
Dudley outraised Kitzhaber by about 3-2, according to filings near the end of the campaign, although that's not unusual for Republicans in governor's races.
Kitzhaber sought to deploy the Democrats' chief advantage in Oregon, the large registration lead that has grown in recent years, in part because of the 2008 campaign of President Barack Obama, who returned to Oregon in the final days of the campaign to urge Kitzhaber's supporters to get out the vote.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)