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Ted Kulongoski
36th Governor of Oregon

In office
January 13, 2003 – January 10, 2011
Preceded by John Kitzhaber
Succeeded by John Kitzhaber
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon

In office
January 4, 1997 – June 18, 2001
Nominated by John Kitzhaber
Preceded by Richard Unis
Succeeded by Thomas Balmer
14th Attorney General of Oregon

In office
January 4, 1993 – January 4, 1997
Governor Barbara Roberts
John Kitzhaber
Preceded by Charles Crookham
Succeeded by Hardy Myers
Personal details
Born Theodore Ralph Kulongoski
November 5, 1940(1940-11-05) (age 82)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Oberst
Children 3
Alma mater University of Missouri
Profession Attorney
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1959–1963
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Theodore Ralph "Ted" Kulongoski (/kʊləŋˈɡɒski/ KUUL-əng-GOS-kee; born November 5, 1940) is a retired American politician, judge and lawyer who served as the 36th Governor of Oregon from 2003 to 2011.[1] A Democrat, he served in both houses of the Oregon Legislative Assembly and also served as the state Insurance Commissioner. He was the Attorney General of Oregon from 1993 to 1997 and an Associate Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1997 to 2001.

Kulongoski has served in all three branches of the Oregon state government, a rare distinction.[2]

Early life and career

Kulongoski was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1940.[3] 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 in 1970.[4] Kulongoski then moved to Eugene, Oregon, and became a labor lawyer.[3]

Early political career

In 1974, Kulongoski was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives and, in 1978, to the Oregon State Senate. In Oregon's 1980 United States Senate election, he ran an unsuccessful race against Republican Bob Packwood. In 1982, he made his first bid for governor;[5] he was defeated by Republican incumbent Victor G. Atiyeh.[4]

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 easily renominated.[6]

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

1992 and 1996 elections

In 1992, Kulongoski was elected as Oregon Attorney General, defeating Republican Rich Rodeman.[7][8] As Attorney General, he focused on reforming the juvenile justice system.[4] In 1996, Kulongoski decided against running for re-election as Attorney General, and instead successfully ran for the Oregon Supreme Court.[9] He resigned from the court in 2001 to run for governor.

2002 gubernatorial election

After winning the Democratic party 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.[citation needed] 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.[10]

Kulongoski took office on January 13, 2003.[11] 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 was 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.[12] 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. Stated Hill, "From my standpoint, [the Democratic Party primary debate] is a good opportunity to show what a horrible Democrat Ted has been".[citation needed] The Service Employees International Union Local 503[13] endorsed Jim Hill,[citation needed] and the Multnomah County Democratic Central Committee[14] decided to endorse Kulongoski's rivals but not him at a February 19, 2006 meeting.

On May 16, 2006, Kulongoski won the Democratic primary with 54% of the vote. Jim Hill finished second with 25%, Pete Sorenson third with 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 that "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".[citation needed]

On November 7, 2006, Kulongoski won a second term, 51% to 43% over Ron Saxton.[15]

Second term

Ted Kulongoski in 2009.

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 H. Taylor, who believes that human activities are not the main cause of global climate change.[16] Kulongoski said the state needs a consistent message on reducing greenhouse gases to combat climate change.[17]

Beginning the week of April 24, 2007, Kulongoski gained national attention[18] 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.[19]

Kulongski announced May 8, 2007 that Oregon will join the Climate Registry to track dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.[20]

Kulongoski signed two LGBT rights bills into law: a domestic partnership bill and an anti-discrimination bill at a ceremony May 9, 2007.[21]

Kulongoski signing the Jobs and Transportation Act, 2009

On June 22, 2007, Kulongoski 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.[22]

In May 2010, Kulongoski suffered a vitreous hemorrhage in the eye due to fragile, abnormal blood vessels that have grown in the retina of the eye. According to Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor, the governor was scheduled for outpatient surgery at Oregon Health & Science University on June 30, 2010 to surgically remove the vitreous gel from the middle of the eye so full vision can be restored.[23]

In September 2010, Kulongoski was one of seven governors to receive a grade of F in the Cato Institute's fiscal-policy report card.[24]

Later life

After leaving the governor's office, he was appointed by John Kitzhaber to the Public Safety Commission as part of a review of Oregon's sentencing guidelines.[25] In 2012, Kulongoski joined the faculty at Portland State University in the school's Mark O. Hatfield School of Government.[25]

Electoral history

Oregon gubernatorial Democratic primary election, 2002[26]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ted Kulongoski 170,799 48.21
Democratic Jim Hill 92,294 26.05
Democratic Bev Stein 76,517 21.60
Democratic William Peter Allen 6,582 1.86
Democratic Caleb Burns 4,167 1.18
write-ins 3,925 1.11
Total votes 354,284 100
Oregon gubernatorial general election, 2002[27]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ted Kulongoski 618,004 49.03
Republican Kevin Mannix 581,785 46.16
Libertarian Tom Cox 57,760 4.58
write-ins 2,948 0.23
Total votes 1,260,497 100
Oregon gubernatorial Democratic primary election, 2006[28]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ted Kulongoski (Incumbent) 170,944 53.56
Democratic Jim Hill 92,439 28.96
Democratic Pete Sorenson 51,346 16.09
write-ins 4,448 1.39
Total votes 319,177 100
Oregon gubernatorial general election, 2006[29]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ted Kulongoski (Incumbent) 699,786 50.73
Republican Ron Saxton 589,748 42.75
Constitution Mary Starrett 50,229 3.64
Pacific Green Joe Keating 20,030 1.45
Libertarian Richard Morley 16,798 1.22
write-ins 2,884 0.21
Total votes 1,379,475 100


  1. Remarks by Governor Kulongoski at the AIPAC Community Dinner, March 8, 2005 Retrieved 2017-05-19.
  2. Harry Esteve, Ted Kulongoski defends legacy as he bids good-bye to Oregon governor's office, Oregonian (January 3, 2011).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Governor Ted Kulongoski About Governor Kulongoski
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Fogarty, Colin (May 3, 2002). "Candidate Profile: Ted Kulongoski". OPB Radio News. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  5. Steves, David (June 18, 2001). "Former Oregon Gubernatorial Candidate Says He's Ready to Win This Time". The Register Guard. 
  6. "Oregonians stay faithful to Kennedy". The Register-Guard. August 15, 1980.,4424288. Retrieved March 23, 2010. 
  8. Oregon Blue Book: Attorneys General of Oregon
  9. Official Results, Supreme Court – 5/21/96 Biennial Primary
  10. 2002 Election results
  11. The Kulongoski Years
  12. Steves, David (December 1, 2005). "Walker puts decision on hold". The Register-Guard. 
  13. SEIU 503
  14. welcome | Multnomah County Democratic Party
  16. HinesSight: Facts about George Taylor and the “state climatologist”
  17. Global warming debate spurs Ore. title tiff
  18. Yardley, William (May 1, 2007). "Statehouse Journal: A Governor Truly Tightens His Belt". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  19. Wong, Peter (April 25, 2007). "Governor shops on a shoestring". Statesman Journal. Retrieved 2007-04-25. [dead link]
  20. Governor Ted Kulongoski Press Release
  21. Basic Rights Oregon » Blog Archive » Kulongoski Signs Domestic Partnerships and Anti-Discrimination
  22. Weigler, Jake (June 22, 2007). "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". Oregon Governor's Office. 
  23. AP. "Ore. governor to have eye surgery." The Columbian. The Columbian, 23 June 2010. Web. 24 June 2010. <>.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Mapes, Jeff (March 28, 2012). "Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski takes teaching position at Portland State University". Retrieved March 28, 2012. 

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Charles Crookham
Attorney General of Oregon
Succeeded by
Hardy Myers
Preceded by
Richard Unis
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon
Succeeded by
Thomas Balmer
Political offices
Preceded by
John Kitzhaber
Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
John Kitzhaber
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert W. Straub
Democratic nominee for Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
Neil Goldschmidt
Preceded by
John Kitzhaber
Democratic nominee for Governor of Oregon
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
John Kitzhaber

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