Oregon's four announced candidates for governor made their first appearance on the same stage Thursday, with the most jousting done by the two Democrats.
At an hour-long forum, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury poked at former Gov. John Kitzhaber for failing to adequately fund schools while in office. Bradbury said he would produce a plan to raise money for schools.
Kitzhaber countered that the education issue goes beyond more funding and involves seeking new ways to provide educational opportunities to Oregon's children.
On other issues, Republican businessman Allen Alley said Oregon needs to remove government barriers to economic recovery to help working families.
And former GOP legislator John Lim said that after two decades of Democratic governors, it's time the state had a Republican leader to get the economy moving.
The forum was sponsored by the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The exchanges between Kitzhaber and Bradbury over school finance were the only pointed comments.
The field to succeed Gov. Ted Kulongoski may grow.
Former Portland Trail Blazers center Chris Dudley may run for the GOP nomination, and Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio is leaving open the possibility of seeking the office. Most observers, however, expect him to seek re-election to Congress.
The primaries are in May, with the general election to follow in November.
Bradbury has been critical of Kitzhaber for promising as governor to propose a tax to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for schools then never coming forward with a plan.
Bradbury said he would immediately bring together interest groups to find a way to revamp Oregon's tax system to provide education funding.
He said he's open to options for raising taxes, such as a gross receipts tax on business sales modeled after a similar system in the state of Washington.
Kitzhaber said he would advocate for more school funding. But the nation is awash in $12 trillion in debt and raising taxes is no single solution, he added.
"We can't rely on public dollars to pull us out of this problem," Kitzhaber said, stressing the state must rethink how it structures and delivers education services.
Alley said he has doubts about raising taxes to provide more money to schools.
"It's not a more-money issue; it's an issue of spending the money we've got more efficiently," he said.
Lim also said the state must live within its means.
"We need government to be run in a clean, effective way," he said.