PORTLAND -- John Kitzhaber said in his acceptance speech Thursday that an evenly divided legislature creates a 'historic opportunity' to create a political center to deal with pressing issues.

Raw video: Watch the speech

In a Wednesday morning address, he called for a move away from partisan politics, noting that the challenges facing Oregon are not red versus blue but rather about green .

In January, Kitzhaber faces a state House and Senate chamber equally divided by political party.

I actually think it's going to be easier to deal with budget crisis, he said of trying to cut across party lines.

He spoke for several minutes in a Northwest Portland park, backed by campaign workers.

Can we swim upstream or what? Kitzhaber said with a smile, as he approached the podium amid cheers.

Today marks not the ending but the beginning. The beginning of our collective efforts to put our state back together and build a strong foundation, he said.

As Kitzhaber claimed victory, he said he's ready to take on the challenges of the state's budget deficit, high unemployment and divided legislature.

He said he also wants to give children the tools to be successful in school and then later in the workplace as they grow to adulthood.

He went on to thank his supporters, family, and campaign staff who carried him forward during this difficult race.

Extremely close race

It took nearly 24 hours after the polls closed, but Democratic candidate John Kitzhaber overtook newcomer Chris Dudley in total votes late Wednesday afternoon, and Dudley conceded the governor's race shortly thereafter.

Kitzhaber said he received a phone call from Dudley around 6:30 p.m., Wednesday during which his republican contender wished him good luck in the future and vowed to stay engaged and continue to work together toward shared goals.

Check: Election Results - Ore. Governor

Tuesday evening, Kitzhaber addressed his supporters and, although trailing, expressed confidence that late returns from Multnomah County would push him to victory. Video: Kitzhaber addresses supporters

About thirty minutes later, Chris Dudley addressed his supports, saying: We're up now, and we'll be up in the morning! Video: Dudley addresses supporters

Recount scenarios

The race was expected to be the closest governor's result in more than 50 years. In 1956, the election for governor was decided by fewer than 9000 votes when Democrat William Wallace Thayer edged Republican C.C. Beekman. More: Jeff Mapes Blog - '56 Election

Budget issues key

Kitzhaber faces tough challenges as Oregon's next governor. The state faces a budget gap expected to be as much as $3 billion when the Legislature begins writing a new budget next year.

Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, leaving office after the two straight terms allowed by Oregon law, has described Oregon's budget situation as heading for a cliff.

Twice this year, as state finances deteriorated, he's called for across-the-board budget cuts that have resulted in teacher layoffs and a prison closing. He and a board of advisers have said sterner measures will be required next year.

Kitzhaber's campaign focused on systems changes, for example, redesigning the state's education system under one governing body from preschool through postgraduate, and setting the state on a 10-year budget cycle.

Check: All Election Results

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