Alley runs Ore. governor campaign on the numbers

Alley runs Ore. governor campaign on the numbers
Republican Allen Alley makes remarks during a interview Friday, April 30, 2010, in Portland, Ore. Alley has touted his high-tech business background in his campaign for governor.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Allen Alley is, first, a numbers guy.

The Republican candidate for governor can tell you not only that he spent 37 days last summer hiking 400 miles from Eastern Oregon to Portland, but also that it took, he calculates, 792,000 steps.

At the center of his campaign website is a video image of him at a whiteboard diagramming the Oregon state budget, sketching black rectangles divided by squiggly lines, inserting figures with dollar signs.

It's an exercise the candidate returns to often, arguing that Oregon's state government pays too little attention to either the scope or detail of its spending and that what's needed to turn things around is the expertise that comes with his high-tech business background.

He promises to heed advice from the last Republican governor of Oregon, Vic Atiyeh, to "own the budget at an atomic level."

Alley and Chris Dudley are the top two contenders for the Republican nomination to succeed Gov. Ted Kulongoski, the Democrat Alley spent a year working for after stepping down as CEO of a struggling company that designs chips for video displays.

During an interview with The Associated Press, Alley used the back of his 20-page "Imagine Oregon" campaign document to re-create his budget diagram and to add a pie chart to illustrate his argument.

Although Oregon's government is spending nearly $60 billion in its current two-year budget, most of the attention goes to the quarter of that financed by the state income tax - the part that funds education, public safety and some human services.

The larger part of state spending is an agglomeration of federal funds for health care, food stamps and jobless benefits and state programs paid for by dedicated fees such as gasoline and hunting fees.

The consequence of putting so much of the government on automatic pilot, Alley says, are higher taxes and fees, not enough money for schools and public safety, a pension program that can't be sustained, dependence on unsteady federal dollars, and a state economy whose recovery is impeded by its government.

So, he said, "What I'm trying to do is establish structures to examine the entire budget."

Alley has outlined many budget "structures," often citing his background, most prominently at Pixelworks, which jumped early into the market to engineer chips for video displays.

He says new positions in state government need to be justified by a return-on-investment analysis. Agencies should justify their operations from the ground up for each budget. Audits of state agencies should come from outside the government, not within, as they do now.

"We should know where every penny is," he said.

The campaign is Alley's second statewide. Two years ago, after leaving Kulongoski's office, he ran as a Republican for state treasurer, but lost.

Like Dudley, Alley wants to cut capital gains taxes. He specifies that it would be for gains realized on investments in Oregon, but he said he might have to start with a small cut next year when he confronts the state's revenue forecasts. Like most Republicans, he supports preserving the state's unique "kicker" rebates to taxpayers when tax collections are well above estimates.

He wants to pump up research at Oregon State on wood for construction products. For its renewable and carbon-storing properties, he said, wood is "the most miraculous machine you can imagine."

His emphasis on budget and business background raises a question: How successful was his enterprise?

He remains chairman of Pixelworks, which he co-founded in 1997. He left day-to-day management in 2006 as the company retrenched, pruning employees and consolidating most operations outside its Oregon headquarters, in California and Shanghai.

Although its stock dipped later to near $1 a share, and was on the verge of losing its exchange listing, the company rebounded, the price at near $5 last week. Pixelworks says it's now looking for new business in 3-D and Internet video.

"We're still around, and we're a healthy company," Alley said. "I mean we're about an $80 million a year company. Pretty much all of our competitors have evaporated."

Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University, says Alley's race may come up short.

Both Dudley and Alley have run lackluster campaigns and, although Dudley has raised more, neither has a lot of money in comparison with previous competitive GOP primary campaigns, Moore said. So, he said, Alley hasn't had enough TV ads to spread his reputation among party regulars as being ready to govern.

"Chris Dudley essentially doesn't answer questions," Moore said. "When Alley goes to debates and appearances, people say, 'Wow, he's got a lot of ideas. He seems to be the better prepared candidate.'"

But, Moore said, the number of undecided Republican voters is high, and "I wouldn't bet a nickel on this race."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.