PORTLAND, Ore. — Among politicians in this state, Chris Dudley stands out. Especially when he is standing up.
In a visit to a rodeo in the coastal town of Tillamook, Dudley dwarfed a port commissioner who asked for greater investment in salmon hatcheries. At a farmers’ market in Portland’s suburbs, he towered over a state senator. In a downtown conference room with a school superintendent, he looked like the only grown-up at the kids’ table.
Like most people who run for governor, Dudley is crisscrossing his state to shake hands, kiss babies and chitchat with voters. Unlike most people, he is doing so at the height of 6 feet 11 inches, his ticket to a 16-year N.B.A. career.
“It really is a great icebreaker,” Dudley said in a recent interview. “People are very comfortable coming up to me — a lot of them feel like they know me already from my time playing.”
Dudley, 45, is an unusual political candidate. He played basketball at Yale, a university far better known for producing politicians than N.B.A. players, and did so while living with diabetes. And in N.B.A. history, no player who scored as little as Dudley — he averaged 3.9 points a gameand was famous for his inept free-throw shooting — has managed to linger longer than his 886 games, which included three and a half seasons with the Nets and three with the Knicks.
He faces an uphill battle in the political arena, too: President Obama won Oregon by 16 percentage points in 2008, and the last time a Republican was elected governor in the state was 1982. But polls have put Dudley in a virtual dead heat with his Democratic opponent, former Gov. John A. Kitzhaber. (The most recent poll, released last Wednesday by SurveyUSA, put Dudley ahead by 2 points, within the margin of error.)
Dudley’s advisers say they hope to replicate the kind of jobs-focused campaign that helped win governorships for Republicans last year in two other states that went for Obama, New Jersey and Virginia