The Oregon gubernatorial election of 2010 was held on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 to elect the Governor of Oregon, who will serve a four-year term to begin on January 10, 2011. The incumbent governor, DemocratTed Kulongoski, was ineligible to run due to term limits barring him from being elected to more than two consecutive terms.
The Democratic candidate John Kitzhaber, who had previously served two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003, was elected to a third term, earning a narrow victory over Republican candidate Chris Dudley and two minor party candidates. Kitzhaber's election marked the first time in Oregon's history that a person has been elected to a third term as governor.
Almost every opinion poll throughout the election season showed a statistical tie between the two. State Republicans saw this election as the best chance to win the governorship since the last Republican governor, Victor Atiyeh, was re-elected in 1982. Once polls closed on election day, Dudley had led in early vote counts, but Kitzhaber's wide margins in Multnomah and Lane counties eventually erased Dudley's lead.
Oregon first used its new cross nomination system, a form of fusion voting, in the 2010 general elections. In this system, a candidate for partisan public office can be nominated by up to three political parties. Kitzhaber was nominated by the Independent Party of Oregon in addition to the Democratic Party.
Oregon first used its new cross nomination system, a form of fusion voting, in the 2010 general elections. In this system, a candidate for partisan public office can be nominated by up to three political parties. As a result, the Independent Party of Oregon did not file a candidate and instead chose to hold a month-long online primary in July. In doing so, it became the first political party in the United States to conduct a binding statewide primary election entirely over the Internet, and it was the largest nominating process ever held by an Oregon minor political party. Republican Chris Dudley did not apply for the Independent Party nomination by the required date, so he was not on the ballot, but he could be written in.
Following the primaries, the two leading candidates, Dudley and Kitzhaber, campaigned separately throughout the state for the summer. Despite attempts by both campaigns to arrange a debate, the candidates could only agree on a single debate on September 30. Through the end of September, the Dudley campaign had raised $5.6 million, more than twice as much as the Kitzhaber campaign.
Throughout the last few months of the campaign, opinion polls showed a tight race with the lead apparently changing frequently. Due to the closeness of the race, President Barack Obama, for whom Oregon voted by a 16-percent margin in 2008, stumped for Kitzhaber; then headlined a rally at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland on October 20, 2010.