SALEM—Charging that Gov. Ted Kulongoski "has not been a good Democrat," former state Treasurer Jim Hill on Tuesday announced that he will challenge Kulongoski for the Democratic nomination in the May 16 primary.
At a news conference, Hill accused Kulongoski of reneging on promises not to reduce public employees' pension benefits and to block any move to place a casino in the Columbia River gorge. He also accused Kulongoski of not strongly supporting Oregon's land-use planning system.
"The governor has really been more of a Republican than a Democrat," Hill said, drawing applause from a group of backers who gathered for his campaign announcement.
Hill's late entry into the race — the candidate filing deadline is only a month away — comes after recent announcements by former Gov. John Kitzhaber and state Sen. Vicki Walker that they had decided not to challenge Kulongoski for the Democratic nomination.
Hill said the timing of his announcement wasn't tied to Kitzhaber's and Walker's decisions, but instead reflected what he said was a gradual realization that Kulongoski was failing to uphold Democratic principles in his first term.
"Let's be honest about it. Ted has not been a good Democrat," said Hill, who made history in 1992 when he was elected state treasurer and became the first African American to win statewide office in Oregon.
Hill ran for governor in 2002, finishing second to Kulongoski in a three-candidate Democratic primary.
Kulongoski campaign manager Cameron Johnson said the incumbent governor thinks he has a strong record to run on in terms of helping to turn around an ailing Oregon economy and that he is ready to make his case to Oregon Democrats.
"We're confident that Democratic voters will want four more years of the type of leadership we have seen under Gov. Kulongoski," Johnson said.
Besides Hill, Kulongoski also is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson, who, like Hill, has accused Kulongoski of failing to show leadership on issues such as education and health care.
The Republican race has drawn three major contenders — former state Rep. Kevin Mannix, Portland lawyer Ron Saxton and state Sen. Jason Atkinson of Jacksonville.
— The Associated Press