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At the debate: John Kitzhaber (left), Bill Bradbury/Stapilus

The two main Demcratic candidates for Oregon governor, former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, have debated before and fairly recently. But this evening at the Multnomah County Courthouse was the first since filing for the office closed – since, you might say, the campaign period more or less formally begins.

Both, at a crowd somewhere upward of 100 people, were readty to roll this evening.

Both put some emphasis, opening their discussion, on Democratc bona fides. Kitzhaber painted himself, for one thing, as the bulwark against the Republican tide of the mid-90s, saying of his many vetoes, for example, that “without those vetoes Oregon wold be a far different state today”. (Although he would speak later, passionately, about working with Republicans.) Bradbury spoke about a range of fronts, from his Bank of Oregon proposal to his call for much higher education funding levels. Both made a point of addressing the state’s economic problems.

Bradbury was quick to be up front about his muscular schelosis, point out his entry into the room on his segway. But he said the disease was diagnosed back in 1980 and didn’t stop him from serving as Senate president or secretary of state.

The most striking single policy idea (not new to this debate, but highlighted at it) was Bradbury’s for a Bank of Oregon, as a means of keeping Oregon money in state to a greater degree. Kitzhaber said he thought it was an idea worth investigating further, among others, but noted that North Dakota (the only state now with a state bank) and Oregon may have a number of structural differences.

Broadly, they agreed on quite a bit – both, in loose terms, are liberal Democrats. (Their disagreements had mainly to do with means, not ends – Kitzhber sometimes questioning the practicality of some of Bradbury’s ideas.) But Bradbury’s framing sounded more like traditional Democratic talk (he, more than the crisply wonkish former governor, had that earnest-Democrat sound), while Kitzhaber’s approach and conceptual framework was a lot different on a range of issues. One brainy Idahoan was asked, years ago, whether in the area of utility regulation he considered himself a consumer advocate; he said not really, because he wasn’t a fan of consumption – his way of looking at issues was simply different. Analogous with Kitzhaber, who seemed to scale down the current talk on health insurance (considering it one one slice of the issue), for example, in favor of a large-concept look at health in terms of promoting better health as the essential solution to the problem.

Kitzhaber was asked about the choice between bipartisanship and sticking with principles; he described it as a false choice, that “we have to recreate some kind of a political center.”

Bradbury’s supporters seemed more in evidence than Kitzhaber’s. They were sign-waving outside, and they were more evident in the commission meeting room too (they live streamed the debate). But the crowd seemed laid back; it was a group of Democrats, do supportive of both candidates, but didn’t seem strongly weighted toward either.

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Monday candidate filings for office in Idaho yielded a few nuggets worth note here:

bullet There are now two Democrats filed to take on Republican Senator Mike Crapo, so he won’t be unopposed again in November as he was six years ago. But which will it be? Tom Sullivan of Tetonia, an unknown factor in state politics? Or maybe a guy who did get some headlines a few months back: William Bryk of Brooklyn, New York?

bullet There’s a Supreme Court contest: Justice Roger Burdick is being opposed by 2nd District Judge John Bradbury. Loads of hard feelings lie in back of this one. In 2008, Bradbury ran against and came very close to ousting Justice Joel Horton. Last year, Bradbury was the subject of a complaint that he didn’t live enough in his formal county of residence, Idaho County – a complaint the Supreme Court snarkishly upheld (in which we view as one of its weaker recent decisions). And there’s more back of all this. Could be lots of snark unloaded in this one between here and the May primary. [Note: Corrected to refer to Bradbury, rather than Burdick, as subject of a complaint.]

bullet Only a few more Democrats filing for the legislature. Maybe notable: In Idaho Falls, Jerry Shiveley, who in 2006 became the first Democrat elected to the legislature from that area in decades, won a central-city seat, which he lost in 2008, and now is filing for again.

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Brian Baird

Outgoing Washington Democratic Representative Brian Baird was among the Democratic “no” votes on the House comprehensive health care bill some months back. Now he’s one of the critical four voters House Democrats leaders hope to flip on the upcoming House health care vote – needed because of prospective losses elsewhere.

Baird’s public statement on the subject is a little cagey, although he does say, “The legislation that is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives is far different from the bill I voted against in November 2009.” He seems to be leaving room for voting in favor.

Meanwhile, the Democratic representative from the district immediately north – Adam Smith – says that “It’s possible I vote for the Senate bill and against reconciliation.”

Even so, the pieces appear as though they’re coming together. Those two seem to be, at this point, the only two northwest members of Congress whose votes (whether up or down) look seriously in doubt.

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