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Family spokesman: Ex-Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh dies

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 21, 2014 at 12:46 am •  Published: July 21, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Vic Atiyeh, Oregon's last Republican governor who shepherded the state through a deep recession during two terms in the 1980s, died Sunday night, a family spokesman said.

The former governor died at 8:15 p.m. PDT at Portland's Providence St. Vincent Medical Center of complications from renal failure, said Denny Miles, who had formerly served as Atiyeh's press secretary.

He said that Atiyeh (pronounced uh-TEE-uh) was at home but had returned to the hospital Saturday due to shortness of breath and possible internal bleeding.

The son of a Syrian immigrant, Atiyeh turned down an offer to play for the Green Bay Packers to take over his family's rug business. He entered politics in the Oregon Legislature, then ran for governor and won on a platform of cutting taxes.

He wound up raising taxes because of the recession, but was also remembered for cutting his own salary as governor three times to help balance the budget.

Atiyeh lamented the poor roll of the dice that made him governor during a recession.

"I don't want to sound defensive about it, but what you get is criticism during the period when times are bad, and then when times become good, it's just the nature of things," Atiyeh told an interviewer days before leaving office.

Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber said Atiyeh was both a mentor and a friend, calling him "a great Oregonian, an historic governor, and a remarkable human being."

Kitzhaber added: "He will be greatly missed, yet his steady leadership, gentle spirit, and love for our state lives on in the many contributions he made to Oregon."

House Republican Leader Mike McLane said the former governor was the epitome of a public servant.

"He was our example," McLane said. "He will be missed by all of us."

Atiyeh, a mainstream Republican who championed small state government and allowing citizens to be "left alone," lost his first run for governor in 1974 to Democrat Bob Straub. He challenged Straub again four years later and won, taking office in 1979 as Oregon underwent what was then its most severe recession since the Great Depression.

The state jumped from among the fastest growing in the country to one with a dwindling population as environmental regulations helped doom the once-mighty timber industry.

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