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Ted Kulongoski

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Ted Kulongoski
Ted kulongoski.jpg
36th Governor of Oregon
Former officeholder
In office
January 13, 2003 – January 10, 2011
PredecessorJohn Kitzhaber (D)
Bachelor'sUniversity of Missouri–Columbia
J.D.University of Missouri–Columbia
Date of birthNovember 5, 1940
The information about this individual is current as of when they left office. See anything that needs updating? Send a correction to our editors
Theodore R. "Ted" Kulongoski (born November 5, 1940) is a Democratic politician and a former two-term Governor of Oregon. He has previously served in both houses of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, as the state Insurance Commissioner, as the Attorney General, and as an Associate Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court.

Early life and career

Kulongoski was born in rural Missouri in 1940.[1] He was four years old when his father died, and spent the rest of his childhood in a Catholic boys' home. After high school, Kulongoski served in the Marines. With the help of the G.I. Bill, he obtained an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Missouri–Columbia.[2]

Kulongoski then moved to Eugene, Oregon and became a labor lawyer.[1]

Early political career

In 1974, Kulongoski was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives and in 1978 to the Oregon State Senate. In 1980, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the United States Senate, losing to incumbent Republican Bob Packwood. In 1982, he made his first bid for governor;[3] he was defeated by Republican incumbent Victor G. Atiyeh.[2]

At the 1980 Democratic National Convention then-State Senator and U.S. Senate nominee Kulongoski received 8 (0.24%) delegate votes for Vice President of the United States. Kulongoski was not a candidate and incumbent Walter Mondale was renominated easily.

In 1987, Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt appointed Kulongoski to the post of state insurance commissioner. In that role, Kulongoski reformed the state's workers' compensation insurance system, a move that is widely credited for lowering costs to business.

1992 and 1996 elections

In 1992, Kulongoski was elected as Oregon Attorney General, defeating Republican Rich Rodeman.[4][5] As Attorney General, he focused on reforming the juvenile justice system.[2] In 1996, Kulongoski decided against running for re-election as Attorney General, and instead successfully ran for the Oregon Supreme Court.[6] He resigned from the court in 2001 to run for governor.

2002 gubernatorial election

After winning the nomination in the 2002 race for governor, Kulongoski's opponent was Republican Kevin Mannix. Kulongoski ran a low-key campaign, emphasizing his reputation as a consensus-builder and problem solver. His television commercials featured such feel-good scenes as the candidate bowling. He argued for a pragmatic approach to solving the state's budget crisis and recession, a marked departure from the more confrontational style of outgoing governor (and fellow Democrat) John Kitzhaber. Mannix argued that the Democratic Party had held the governorship in Oregon too long, and pledged to reduce government spending without cutting vital services. Many of Kulongoski's supporters were disappointed with his campaign, feeling he did not adequately respond to Mannix's challenge. Kulongoski narrowly won the election, winning 618,004 votes (49%), with 581,785 votes (46%) going to Mannix, and 57,760 votes (5%) going to Libertarian candidate Tom Cox.[7]

Kulongoski took office January 13, 2003.[8] (timed out) He inherited a state facing a massive budget deficit and high unemployment. Furthermore, he faced the task of dealing with problems with the public employees' pension system without angering the labor unions that backed his campaign. As Governor, he is a member of the National Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association.

2006 gubernatorial election

On December 1, 2005, the Eugene Register-Guard reported that former Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber was considering challenging Kulongoski in the Democratic primary.[9] But one month later, Kitzhaber announced he would not do so, as did another potential Democratic rival, State Senator Vicki Walker. This left Governor Kulongoski with two challengers: Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson, and former State treasurer Jim Hill, both of whom accused Kulongoski of betraying Democratic Party principles in the primary debates. Stated Hill, "From my standpoint, [the Democratic Party primary debate] is a good opportunity to show what a horrible Democrat Ted has been."[10] The Service Employees International Union Local 503 endorsed Jim Hill,[11] and the Multnomah County Democratic Central Committee decided to endorse Kulongoski's rivals but not him at a February 19, 2006 meeting.

Some other interest groups also indicated unhappiness with Kulongoski. Palestinian supporters from Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights questioned Kulongoski's connections to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, after the governor was quoted as saying that "support for AIPAC is an article of faith for both political parties." And in April 2006, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde started running advertisements for Jim Hill over Ted Kulongoski, due to the Governor's decision allowing a rival tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to build a casino in Cascade Locks. Hill attacked Kulongoski stating, "Let's be real clear: once again, Ted lied."Kulongoski denied the accusation, stating that he endorsed the Cascade Locks site only to prevent the Warm Springs tribe from building on tribal land near Hood River, in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, which by law they are allowed to do.[12]

On May 16, 2006, Kulongoski won the Democratic primary with 54% of the vote. Jim Hill finished second with 25%, and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson garnered 16% of the vote.

Kulongoski faced multiple opponents in the general election: Republican Party candidate Ron Saxton, Constitution Party candidate Mary Starrett, Libertarian Party candidate Richard Morley, and Pacific Green Party candidate Joe Keating. Former Republican Ben Westlund planned on running as independent, but on August 10, 2006, withdrew from the race, stating, "I made a commitment to the people of Oregon that I was in it to win it and that I absolutely would not play a spoiler role."[13]

On November 7, 2006, Kulongoski won a second term, 51% to 43% over Ron Saxton.[14] (dead link)

Second term

In February 2007, Kulongoski and State Senator Brad Avakian worked to clarify that Oregon recognizes no position of "state climatologist" in response to the use of that title by Oregon State University professor George Taylor, who believes that human activities are not the main cause of global climate change.[15] Kulongoski said the state needs a consistent message on reducing greenhouse gases to combat climate change.[16]

Beginning the week of April 24, 2007, Kulongoski gained national attention[17] when he joined a campaign, known as the food stamp challenge, that portrays the difficulty living on the average weekly food stamp allotment of $21.[18]

Kulongski announced May 8, 2007, that Oregon will join the Climate Registry to track dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.[19]

Kulongoski signed two GLBT rights bills into law: a domestic partnership bill and an anti-discrimination bill at a ceremony May 9, 2007.[20]

On June 22, 2007, Kulongski made a friendly political wager with North Carolina Governor Mike Easley that "Oregon State Beavers baseball team will repeat as champions and defeat the University of North Carolina Tar Heels for a second time in the championship of the 2007 NCAA College World Series."[21]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Governor Ted Kulongoski About Governor Kulongoski (timed out)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Candidate Profile: Ted Kulongoski by Colin Fogarty, OPB Radio News, May 3, 2002
  3. Former Oregon Gubernatorial Candidate Says He's Ready to Win This Time by David Steves, The Register Guard, June 18, 2001
  4. http://www.polidata.us/pub/reports/41000vhc.pdf
  5. Oregon Blue Book: Attorneys General of Oregon
  6. Official Results, Supreme Court - 5/21/96 Biennial Primary
  7. http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/nov52002/abstract/gov.pdf2002
  8. http://www.governor.state.or.us/speech_011303.htm
  9. Walker puts decision on hold by David Steves, The Register Guard, Dec. 1, 2005
  10. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1144292109305320.xml&coll=7
  11. http://www.oregonlive.com/newsflash/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-14/1142733867318430.xml&storylist=orlocal
  12. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1144115746133050.xml&coll=7
  13. OregonLive.com: Election Updates from The Oregonian
  14. http://egov.sos.state.or.us/division/elections/results/2006_G100_401.htm
  15. HinesSight: Facts about George Taylor and the “state climatologist”
  16. Local News | kgw.com | News for Oregon and SW Washington
  17. Statehouse Journal: A Governor Truly Tightens His Belt by William Yardley, The New York Times, May 1, 2007
  18. Governor shops on a shoestring by Peter Wong, Statesman Journal, Apr. 25, 2007
  19. Governor Ted Kulongoski Press Release
  20. Basic Rights Oregon » Blog Archive » Kulongoski Signs Domestic Partnerships and Anti-Discrimination (dead link)
  21. Article by Jake Weigler, Oregon's Governor's Office, June 22, 2007

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