While most of the coverage surrounding the coming 2022 midterm elections this November encompasses control of the Senate and House of Representatives, here in Oregon we have the first open gubernatorial race in over 10 years. This exciting and unpredictable race for the state’s top job features three women on the ballot for the first time ever. The contest is shaping up to be unusually close, with the Cook Political Report having just changed their rating of the race from “Leans Democrat” to “Toss Up,” following recent polls that show a tight three-way competition. The eventual victor this November could theoretically win with just about 35% of the vote. Major issues of the campaign include homelessness and affordable housing, wildfire management, the state’s urban-rural divide, crime and public safety, responses to inflation, and gun control. As with all close races this election season, the recent Dobbs v. Jackson decision overturning the right to abortion nationwide has also become a potent line of attack among the three candidates, as political forecasters see abortion rights as one of the defining issues of this election cycle. Read more about the three candidates below:
Ms. Drazan, the former Oregon House Minority Leader, is the only Republican nominee for governor. While Oregon has had many competitive gubernatorial elections in recent decades, the state has not elected a Republican to the governor’s mansion since 1982. However, Ms. Drazan believes she may have cracked the formula. She has been unusually savvy in keeping her image acceptable to swing voters while not depressing her Republican base. Presenting herself as a small-town mom from Klamath Falls who is divorced from urban politics, as well as her surprisingly soft spoken personality, she has certainly distinguished herself from many other Republican candidates across the country. She does not dispute the 2020 election either, which, regardless of the outcome, surely relieves Oregonians from the prospect of an election-denier running the state. She has stated herself as a “proud pro-life candidate,” but has nontheless vowed to respect Oregon’s pre-existing abortion laws, which are some of the most lenient in the nation. She has focused more on monetary issues, from inflation, to energy costs, to accusations of overly costly climate policy. She has led several Republican walkouts in the past few years to block proposed climate legislation by breaking quorum, with generally unsuccessful results. Her opponents have lambasted said walkouts as undemocratic. Ms. Drazan is confident she can overcome the state’s left-of-center bent by casting herself as a check on Democratic legislative majorities, and by attempting to split the Democratic vote between her opponents Ms. Kotek and Ms. Johnson. If polls hold steady, she may just pull it off. For more information visit https://www.christinefororegon.com/.
Ms. Johnson, a former Democratic State Senator, is running as an unaffiliated candidate for governor. She served in the State Senate from 2005 until just last year, before resigning and relinquishing her party affiliation. Ms. Johnson is without question running a campaign with a strong populist bent, with her big personality and unique fashion sense (topped off by her instantly-recognizable eyeglasses) doing much of her campaign’s heavy lifting. Ms. Johnson has not hesitated to drag her opponents across the coals at every opportunity, painting Drazan as an unelectable right-wing extremist poised to ban abortion statewide (Johnson is staunchly pro-choice), while mocking Kotek – “Tent-city Tina,” she calls her – as just another out-of-touch Portlander not able to understand the needs of the entire state who will “have us all woke and broke,” in her words. Johnson has made it her mission to cast herself as the only person on the ballot who understands Oregon as a whole, attempting to outflank Drazan on rural issues while slamming Kotek with accusations of urban decay, all while promising to govern as a common-sense centrist who will protect abortion rights and gun rights in equal measure. Whether this actually amounts to electoral success remains to be seen, but Johnson appears convinced that the majority of voters are craving a nonpartisan leader. Ms. Drazan has nonetheless dismissed Johnson as just another Democrat, indistinguishable from Kotek, most likely recognizing the danger of Johnson’s populist rhetoric peeling away Republican voters, all of whom Drazan needs desperately to remain competitive. “I don’t care if you voted for Biden or Trump, or if you wrote in your dog, or you didn’t vote at all: I want your vote.” For more information visit https://www.runbetsyrun.com/.
Ms. Kotek, the former Oregon House Speaker, is the Democratic nominee for governor. While Oregon’s typically left-leaning electorate initially made Ms. Kotek the heavy favorite to win, several developments seem to have stymied her otherwise sure-thing campaign. Not the least of which is the candidacy of Ms. Johnson, which the Kotek campaign clearly sees as a frustrating foil who could function only as a spoiler à la Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, lifting an otherwise too-conservative Drazan to victory. The polls don’t necessarily support this however, with Ms. Drazan hovering at around 33%, about 7 points behind former-President Trump’s vote total in 2020, suggesting Ms. Johnson is stealing votes from both candidates (Ms. Kotek sits at about 31-32%, comparatively). Ms. Kotek also has the disadvantage of being heavily associated with hugely unpopular incumbent Governor Kate Brown, with both Drazan and Johnson relentlessly attacking Kotek as being more of the same, and promising that breaking one-party-rule in Salem is the only path forward that can deliver results. However, Ms. Kotek has tricks up her sleeve. Ms. Drazan’s assurances that she won’t touch Oregon’s abortion laws hasn’t stopped Kotek from using the issue as a rallying torch, as many Democrats have done around the country. She undoubtedly has a successful record from her time as House Speaker, and would absolutely go into her first term with good pre-established relationships with state lawmakers. She would also be the first openly lesbian governor ever elected (along with the shoo-in Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healy), and easily has the strongest pro-climate platform of the three candidates (though Johnson and Drazan have criticized her plans as neglecting the needs of the state’s many natural-resource-dependent communities). Ms. Kotek’s baseline promise is to continue the successes that the past decade of Oregon’s Democratic trifecta have delivered. November 8th will determine whether Oregonians want those policies to continue, or are ready for change. For more information visit https://www.tinafororegon.com/.
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