Governor Ted Kulongoski doesn’t immediately scream “epic political force,” but consider this: the guv’s January departure after two terms presumably ends a public career that began in 1974. Kulo’s sheer endurance means he’s overlapped with a cosmos of big names over the last four decades. And we’ll live with some of his achievements for a long time. Behold—our departing overlord’s gravitational pull.
Young Kulo made an odd mini-splash on the national scene in 1980, when eight delegates at the Democratic National Convention voted for Kulongoski as the party’s vice presidential nominee, instead of the incumbent Mondale.
Also in ’80, Ted challenged the famed Republican senator—and lost by 8 percentage points, a margin that would cause most politicians to take another look at running for, say, county commissioner.
In 1982, Kulongoski took on Oregon’s last Republican governor—and got crushed by 25 points, a margin that would have turned most politicians into college professors.
In 1987, Governor Goldschmidt appointed T.K. to run the state insurance commission. In 2003, Governor Kulongoski appointed Portland’s former boy-wonder mayor to the state higher-ed board.
Kulo succeeded Kitz thanks in part to Libertarian Tom Cox, who split the conservative vote in 2002. Kitzhaber then contemplated running against Ted in ’06, but backed down.
Kulongoski collaborated with the Governator (and former Cimmerian warrior) on a number of significant environmental initiatives—perhaps the last moderate bipartisan cooperation we’ll ever see.
Kulongoski served as a marine in Southeast Asia.
IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN
By attending scores of military funerals, Kulongoski became a rare politician to focus on modern war’s human cost.
SOLAR & WIND
Requiring the state to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 may prove Kulongoski’s most far-reaching legacy.
Kulongoski helped motor Oregon to the front of the EV pack, securing federal dollars for thousands of charging stations.
ARTS & FILM FUNDING
Kulongoski restored the state’s poet laureate program, steered millions to cultural initiatives, and established key tax incentives to lure film productions to Oregon.
THE BUDGET DEFICIT
Kulongoski’s orders for deep budget cuts this year put him at odds with his union base—foreshadowing the pain necessary to plug the fiscal hole he leaves behind.