Kulongoski was born November 5, 1940 in rural Missouri. When he was four, his father died, and Kulongoski spent the rest of his childhood in a Catholic boys home. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the military, and served in the Marines. Upon returning from overseas duty Kulongoski was honorably discharged and with the help of the G. I. Bill, obtained an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Missouri.  He moved to Eugene Oregon in 1970 and began practicing law.
Kulongoski and his wife, Mary, have three grown children.
In 1980 he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the United States Senate, losing to incumbent Republican Bob Packwood. In 1982, he made his first bid for governor, only to be defeated by Republican incumbent Victor G. Atiyeh. The defeat hurt Kulongoski deeply, and he quit public service as a result. 
However, in 1987, Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt appointed Kulongoski to the post of state insurance commissioner. In that role, Kulongoski reformed the state's workers' compensation insurance system, a move that is widely credited for increasing benefits to workers while lowering costs to business. In 1992, Kulongoski was elected as state Attorney General. In that post, he focused on reforming the juvenile justice system.
Kulongoski was elected Attorney General in 1992. In 1996, Kulongoski decided against running for re-election as Attorney General, and instead successfully ran for and was elected to the Oregon Supreme Court in 1996 where he served for 4 1/2 years. He resigned from the court in 2001 to run for governor.
After winning the Democratic Party nomination in the 2002 race for governor, Kulongoski's opponent was Republican Kevin Mannix. Kulongoski ran a low-key campaign, emphasizing his reputation as a consensus-builder and problem solver. His television commercials featured such feel-good scenes as the candidate bowling. He argued for a pragmatic approach to solving the state's budget crisis and recession, a departure from the more direct style of outgoing governor (and fellow Democrat) John Kitzhaber. Mannix argued that the Democratic Party had held the governorship in Oregon too long, and pledged to reduce government spending without cutting vital services. Many of Kulongoski's supporters were disappointed with his lack-luster campaign, feeling he did not vigouriously argue a response to Mannix's challenge.  Kulongoski narrowly won the election, winning 618,004 votes, with 581,785 votes going to Mannix, and 57,760 votes going to Libertarian candidate Tom Cox.
Kulongoski took office January 13, 2003.  He inherited a state facing a massive budget deficit and high unemployment. Furthermore, he faced the task of dealing with problems with the public employees' pension system without angering the labor unions that backed his campaign.
With the distinction of having served in all three branches of state government, Kulongoski brought legal, administrative and legislative knowledge and expertise to the office of governor.
He was reelected in 2006, see Oregon gubernatorial election, 2006.
Ted Kulongoski, Governor
State Capitol Bldg.
900 Court St. NE
- Office of the Governor - Official website