Kitzhaber decision to run again: 'Within probably two to three weeks'

Kitzhaber decision to run again: 'Within probably two to three weeks' »Play Video
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber appears during "Your Voice, Your Vote" Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. He says he'll make a decision on whether to run for a fourth term as the state's governor in "two to three weeks." Click the "Play Video" button to watch the show.

PORTLAND, Ore. – John Kitzhaber appears to be in no hurry in deciding if he'll run for a fourth term as Oregon's governor.

After this year's regular legislative session, he said he'd take the summer to think over another run. But as the summer ended, no announcement came; instead, he said he'd make a decision at the end of October. That didn't happen, either. Now Kitzhaber told KATU's Steve Dunn during "Your Voice, Your Vote" Sunday that 'I'll make a decision within probably two to three weeks." 

Kitzhaber, 66, has already made history by being elected governor three times in this state, and the prospect of a fourth run has been a question asked almost moments after he finished taking the oath of office for his third term – reporters have asked him if he'll run again from time to time in the last three years as if knowing the answer could add significance to an already significant term.

For Kitzhaber, he's gotten big things done in his third time in the job. He's gotten legislators to sign off on things like coordinated care organizations, the state health insurance exchange, a new board to oversee the education system and he successfully got the so-called "grand bargain" of PERS reform and tax increases through the Legislature during a recent special session.

That success and his reforms in health care have gotten him noticed nationally.

And unlike calling the state "ungovernable" when he left office after his second term, he's been having fun this time around.

"I won't be coy," he told Dunn. "I've enjoyed it. I think we've done some very good work. ... I've enjoyed these last three years, and I think they've been productive for the state."

But he recognizes he’s not as young as he used to be, and he has a teenage son to think about.
"Work, life-balance issues are important to me, but (it's) another four-year commitment. I want to think about it real hard," he said.

Not everything has gone as planned during his third administration, however.

The website for the state's health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, wasn't fully operational by the start of open enrollment for those seeking health insurance that will be required under the new federal health care law by Jan. 1. And it still has problems. Last week, Kitzhaber announced the hiring of 100 temporary workers to help process applications by hand and downplayed problems with the exchange.

What may also factor into his decision about his political future is making sure what he's accomplished will have staying power. He told Dunn there is still work to be done to ensure the changes to the health care and educational systems in the state are implemented.

And there are other initiatives waiting for the governor that may require a fourth term for him to tackle.

"Clearly, we still need to take on the whole question of public finance, which is very antiquated. It really doesn't work for anybody," he said, also adding the need to "address climate change, but also transition to a robust clean economy along the West Coast with well-paying jobs. We believe we can triple the clean economy by 2020 to $150 billion."

Even though Kitzhaber hasn't officially announced whether he'll be seeking another term as governor, The Associated Press reported last week his campaign has collected almost $232,000 in contributions so far this year.

So far, two Republicans say they want to lead the state this next time around: State Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point and Eastern Oregon rancher, Jon Justesen both plan a Kitzhaber challenge if he decides to run again.

To watch the entire interview with Kitzhaber and the entire "Your Voice, Your Vote" show, click on the "Play Video" button above.