Like any new governor, Kate Brown’s first assignment is to reach out.
In this case, out from Salem, out from Portland.
For decades, there’s been a widening gap between metropolitan Portland and the rest of the state, a gap intensified by economic recovery in Portland and persistent recession elsewhere. Rural resentment has been strengthened by so much of the state’s elected leadership coming from Portland.
John Kitzhaber, with his Roseburg roots and his cowboy boots, could cover some of that distance. Kate Brown, from inner southeast Portland and a former Democratic party leader in the state Senate, will have to try a little harder.
Especially after the legislature finishes, that will require her being a physical presence around the state, in Grants Pass and Prineville and Pendleton. In this session, it means reaching out to and working with the legislators from those areas, almost all Republicans.
That means looking out for economic development opportunities for rural areas. If there’s a transportation package, it has to include the concerns of Eastern and Southern Oregon. In higher education, it means concern for the regional universities in Klamath Falls, Ashland, Monmouth and La Grande.
Kate Brown can do all this. And now that she’s governor of the entire state, she’ll have to.
NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 2/21/15.