Although he was never a fantastic NBA center, who often broke records for missed free throws, and barely scored only about 3 average points a game, Chris Dudley was always a fan favorite in Portland, Oregon because of his reputation as a good guy. As a player for the Portland Trailblazers, Dudley was always known for his intelligence as well as philanthropist ways, but lacks any real political or business experience. Now he’s running for Governor of Oregon, and has a slight lead among most polls over former Governor John Kitzhaber, an ultra experienced state politician. In a funny election year where angry voters want to throw out familiar faces and elect new faces with little or no experience, Dudley has a real shot to win.
As the main state newspaper, THE OREGONIAN, has noted, Dudley “continues to struggle in interviews and in one televised debate”, yet these awful performances as well a weak record as an NBA player don’t seem to be moving polls much in the direction of the former governor, who has run a weaker than expected campaign this time around. With a well funded campaign from large business interests who see some tax break opportunities in Dudley, Republican Party leadership also see an opportunity in Dudley to score a rare statewide in Oregon where the state Republican Party is hardly competitive in winning state races. To say that the state party is in disrepair, would be to put it mildly.
Dudley is a form of moderate Republican much more in the mode of past GOP statewide winners such as Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield, Clay Meyers and Norma Paulus. However, at least one of these, Norma Paulus is supporting Kitzhaber, mainly due to the experience difference.
Dudley’s main experience could be summed up as raising money for diabetes research and acting as an NBA player’s union representative. Dudley has no experience luring foreign trade to Oregon or managing a budget larger than his own bank accounts. Yet, a majority of voters might just ask Dudley to manage all of Oregon’s problems, as the state manages through budget shortfalls as well as other serious lingering recession problems. Dudley claims to offer up some grand plan for education, yet with all of his tax cut proposals, it is unclear how schools will avoid a budget ax under his proposals, or how state services will survive intact. Dudley’s ads proclaim a proud future, yet the devil is in the details.
Just like someone who drinks too much and wakes up the next day regretting a nasty hangover, many voters are willing to elect under qualified candidates in this screwy election year , and then willing to live with the nasty consequences for years afterwards. That sure makes a lot of sense. However, thinly qualified celebrity candidates like Chris Dudley might just be able to ride this wave to winning, with only his celebrity status as his main qualification. Never mind that he wasn’t even a great NBA player.
Celebrity is the only reason Dudley has even gotten this far. But celebrity has carried some other celebrities to high places before, witness actors Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan.