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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Kitzhaber Creates Commission To Study Capitol Statue Squabble

Architect of the Capitol

Each state is represented by two statues in the United States Capitol Building. Some Oregon lawmakers have tried repeatedly to replace one of their state's specimens.

Now, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is pulling together a commission to try to settle this statue squabble once and for all.

Oregon's current carved representatives in Washington DC are early pioneer missionary Jason Lee and John McLoughlin, a fur trader who played a prominent role in settling the Oregon Territory.

It's Lee whose stone-faced presence is in jeopardy. Supporters of Lee say he represents Oregon's Christian heritage. Others aren't as impressed. They say Lee only spent a few years in the Oregon Territory.

Congress started to allow replacement of the statues in 2000. Alabama has swapped in Hellen Keller. California used it to get Ronald Reagan in.

Two efforts to replace Lee's statue with one honoring former Oregon governor and U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield have faltered in the legislature.

Now, Governor Kitzhaber has stepped into the fray. He has empaneled a commission to make a recommendation to Oregon lawmakers for another possible round of debates next year.

Washington's statues at the U.S. Capitol honor Catholic missionary Mother Joseph and pioneer physician Marcus Whitman. Idaho's choices are early 20th Century U.S. Senator William Edgar Borah and the state's first governor, George Laird Shoup.