Kitzhaber needs to reach out to bridge divide

By Observer editorial November 10, 2010 01:19 pm
Voters sent a lot of messages in the Nov. 2 election, one of which is the desire for the major parties to start working together more and end the gridlock that has existed at various levels of government. Whether or not elected leaders will decide to pursue a more bipartisan approach to governing remains to be seen. But opportunities do exist. Take, for example, right here in Oregon. In the race for governor, Democrat John Kitzhaber defeated Republican Chris Dudley in what may be the closest gubernatorial race in Oregon history. Dudley carried 28 of Oregon’s 36 counties, but Kitzhaber carried the more densely populated counties to eke out a narrow victory. Kitzhaber will take office in January knowing that a significant number of people, geographically representing about 90 percent of the state, would have preferred his opponent.

So what would help bridge that divide?

By trying something unique. How about reaching out to Dudley for a position in the Kitzhaber administration? Say, special assistant to the governor for economic development. Imagine Dudley as the state’s top business recruiter. Although short on government experience, Dudley is a sharp guy and he does leave an impression.

It’s not likely that either man’s ego — or political philosophy — would give such a concept much thought. What about politics and political futures? What about the various parties’ political and fundraising
constituencies? These days people with such diverse viewpoints aren’t supposed to get along.

Why not? The time has come for leaders to give more than lip service to working together, to finding the middle ground. It’s possible that such a highly unusual move could work on Oregonians’ behalf, and perhaps it could even extend to the way the governor’s office and Legislature interact, as well as how the assembly’s
caucuses work together.

The idea’s a longshot, to be sure. But working together means someone has to reach out. Kitzhaber could make a huge statement to Oregonians by doing so.