SALEM, Ore. — State Rep. Dennis Richardson, one of the most visible Republican legislators who is best known as the GOP’s go-to lawmaker on budget matters, announced Wednesday that he’s running for governor of Oregon.
Richardson is the most prominent candidate so far to declare his candidacy. Eastern Oregon rancher Jon Justesen, a Republican, is the only other candidate to announce for governor. Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber said earlier this month that he hasn’t decided whether to run for a fourth term.
Richardson, 62, grew up in Los Angeles and flew helicopters for the Army in Vietnam. He settled in Southern Oregon in 1979, was first elected to the Legislature in 2002 and rose to be the co-chairman of the Budget Committee when Republicans shared power with Democrats after the 2010 election.
“Today is a kick off of our movement to give Oregon a future that we can honor, that we can appreciate and that we can give to our children,” he told several dozen supporters at a plywood processing plant in Eugene on Wednesday.
Democrats and left-leaning interest groups quickly launched a full-court press after Richardson’s announcement Wednesday, contacting reporters to slam Richardson and defend Kitzhaber’s record — a strong indication that Kitzhaber is leaning toward running for re-election.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon highlighted Richardson’s opposition to legalized abortion.
“Actions speak louder than words, and the actions that we’ve seen from Dennis Richardson have been all against climate change and all against the environment,” said Doug Moore, director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. “(Richardson) may talk a lot, but the leadership from Governor Kitzhaber has been fantastic.”
In a statement, Justesen welcomed Richardson to the race and said a contested Republican primary would be good for the state.
Richardson’s weekly emails explaining his conservative perspective on public policy debates have endeared him to many Republicans and irritated Democrats. The emails went to a distribution list that Richardson compiled in part by making public records requests of state agencies.