Can this man break the Democrats' hold on governor's office?

Can this man break the Democrats' hold on governor's office?

PORTLAND, Ore. – Dennis Richardson wants to be the next governor of the state of Oregon.

But the state representative from the southern Oregon town of Central Point may have two things against him right from the start. One, he likely has low name recognition statewide. And two, he is a member of the Republican Party.

A Republican hasn't held the governor's office for nearly 30 years in this state. But Richardson is betting that Oregonians have tired of the status quo and think it's time for a change.

"I believe that before we vote in 2014, Oregonians are going to be saying, am I happy with what I've been getting?" he told KATU's Steve Dunn during an appearance on "Your Voice, Your Vote" on Sunday. "Am I happy with where we're going with unemployment, with education and with our natural resource policies?"

His words are a challenge for Oregonians to at least ask and consider those questions. And a recent KATU News/SurveyUSA poll indicates that Oregonians are willing to do so in regards to who holds the state's highest political office.

Two questions in particular that the 501 registered voters statewide were asked stood out.

To the question whether voters would consider voting for a strong Republican candidate, about 62 percent said they would. Interestingly, a large percentage of respondents to that question were not affiliated with either the party of Republican or Democrat. And even among the Democrats, a large number of them said they would consider voting for a Republican.

And to the question whether they would vote again for the state's current governor, John Kitzhaber, if he were to run for a historic fourth term, 56 percent of respondents said they're not sure until they know who is running against him.

While the feeling among the pundits is that Kitzhaber will likely run again, the governor has said he will take the summer to consider his options before making a final decision.  
 
As for Richardson, he does have something going for him that many of the previous Republican candidates for governor lacked: elected government experience. He was first elected to the Oregon Legislature in 2002 and rose to co-chair of the Ways and Means committee during the 2011 session when Democrats and Republicans equally shared power in the House of Representatives.

Richardson was not shy to tout that experience on Sunday.

"I've been down in the dark, behind the closed doors where we create the budgets and craft all the funds and general funds budgets for our state," he said. "I see how it works and know how it works, and I've seen so many opportunities where we can improve the state only to have them not be implemented because of the failure of vision and a lack of leadership."

It's still early – very early. The election for Oregon's next governor is still well over a year away, and depending on who announces his or her candidacy for governor, the political landscape could change quickly.

Click on the "Play Video" button above to watch the entire show, which includes discussion with talk show host Dave Anderson about SurveyUSA's polling.