John Kitzhaber was born in Colfax, Wash., and currently lives in Portland, Ore. He received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a medical degree from what is now Oregon Health & Science University.
Kitzhaber was an emergency-room physician from 1974 to 1988. During that time, he also ran for the Oregon Legislature, winning a seat in the House in 1978.
Kitzhaber won the Senate presidency before stepping aside to run for governor.
He was elected governor in 1994 and served two terms. After leaving office, he became an advocate for health reform. In 2010, he was elected to an unprecedented third term.
Kitzhaber is divorced and has one son. His life partner is Cylvia Hayes.
John Kitzhaber returned to the Oregon Statehouse in 2011, re-elected to his third term as governor after eight years away from public life.
Since returning to the Oregon Statehouse, he has been the chief beneficiary of a tie in the Oregon House between Republicans and Democrats. He has driven the conversation in the Legislature and piled up a string of victories, most notably on education and health care.
His performance has been a stark contrast from the tail end of his second term, when the former emergency-room doctor was derisively nicknamed "Dr. No." Feuding with a Republican Legislature, he vetoed more bills than any other Oregon governor.
He ran a centrist campaign in 2010, promising not to be the partisan "superlegislator" he said he'd become in his first two terms. He narrowly defeated former professional basketball player Chris Dudley and almost immediately began meeting with Republican leaders.
Kitzhaber's signature achievement of his third term has been a plan to redesign the system of delivering health care to 600,000 patients on the Oregon Health Plan. The Legislature signed off twice, in 2011 and 2012, and he persuaded President Barack Obama's administration to give Oregon nearly $2 billion to implement it. Kitzhaber hopes his model of coordinated care spreads across the country, but he acknowledges there's no guarantee that it will save money.
He also persuaded the Legislature to buy into his vision of centralizing control over education in the governor's office. He hopes to eventually give his new Education Investment Board the power to reward good schools with more money.
In November 2011, Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on the death penalty and granted a reprieve to a death-row inmate who asked to waive his remaining appeals and be executed. In uncharacteristically emotional remarks, Kitzhaber said he is morally opposed to capital punishment and has long regretted allowing two executions to go forward in the 1990s. Critics, including the inmate he spared, said the governor was usurping the will of voters.
Hours after Kitzhaber's death penalty announcement, popular University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere created a firestorm with an email to the campus community announcing that Kitzhaber and the State Board of Higher Education wanted him out. Lariviere was fired the following week, and Kitzhaber was forced to contain the damage among angry students, professors and donors in Eugene.
Despite his high-profile successes on education and health care, other Kitzhaber priorities have gone nowhere. He has repeatedly said he wants to reform a tax structure that's highly vulnerable to economic downturns. His push to create a 10-year state budget — instead of the current two-year spending plan — has been hammered out in secret.
Kitzhaber's accomplishments in the governor's office began in the Legislature, when he authored the Oregon Health Plan, which provided health care to low-income Oregonians. He continued to push for environmental and health care-related causes as governor in the 1990s, but he faced declining state revenues when the collapse of the tech bubble led to an unemployment spike while dragging down tax revenues.
American Conservative Union Rating: Not rated
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: Not rated
John Kitzhaber won his May 2014 primary, he will face Dennis Richardson in November.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 10, 2014.)