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Oregon primaries set up competitive governor’s race

KTVZ graphic

Associated Press/Report for America

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gubernatorial elections in Oregon usually result in victories for the Democrats, but this November’s contest is setting up to be a competitive and contentious three-way race.

Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek won the Democratic nomination for Oregon governor Tuesday. She will face the winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary as well as nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson in the fall. As a nonaffiliated candidate, Johnson did not need to run in a primary race to make the fall ballot.

“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state. And this will be an election unlike any of us have ever seen,” Kotek said in her victory speech Tuesday night.

Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan won the GOP gubernatorial primary, maintaining a lead over former Oregon Republican Party Chair Bob Tiernan as more ballots were counted Wednesday.

Drazan said Tiernan called her Wednesday afternoon and conceded, which was confirmed by his campaign.

Incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, can’t run again due to term limits.

While Oregon hasn’t seen a GOP governor in 35 years, political experts say Republicans have an opening amid widespread discontent in the state and a possible split in votes between Kotek, a progressive, and Johnson, a former Democratic state senator.

“I think this is the best shot they’ve had in quite a few years,” Christopher McKnight Nichols, an associate professor of history at Oregon State University, said of the GOP party’s chances in November.

In the blue Pacific Northwest state, Republican voters account for about 25% of the state’s total number of registered voters. Democrats and nonaffiliated voters each amount to 34%. Which gubernatorial candidate collects nonaffiliated votes and support from undecided Democrats and Republicans will play a major factor in the November election.

“For Johnson to win she’s going to need to get Independents, Republicans and people who weren’t the low turnout Democrat voters in the primaries — so sort of lukewarm or not as observant regular voting Democrats,” Nichols said.

The only nonaffiliated governor in Oregon’s history was Julius L. Meier from 1931 to 1935.

“The biggest change Oregon can make this year is putting the people back in charge with an independent governor loyal only to Oregonians, not the political extremes,” Johnson tweeted.

The former lawmaker, whose time in the Legislature overlapped with Kotek’s, described the Democratic gubernatorial nominee as “more Kate Brown than Kate Brown” — a common comparison by opponents of Kotek, in hopes of associating her with the current governor’s historically low approval ratings.

Kotek, who wielded the House speaker’s gavel for a record nine years as the Democratic Party increased its power and pushed ambitious progressive agendas, has called Johnson a conservative.

The Portland-based Kotek, beat her biggest Democratic challenger — Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read — by a comfortable margin Tuesday night. But as someone who held power during a tumultuous time in Oregon, Kotek must convince voters she can improve the state while avoiding blame for its problems.

“I think it’s important to remember that all the Democrats in this race share a similar vision for what we want the state to be,” Kotek said in her victory speech. “We’re all going to work together to make sure we win. That a Democrat — that I win in November, because frankly there is just too much at stake.”


Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Associated Press



    1. Kotek has more votes in a PRIMARY than all the redumplixans combined. Good luck with that. Maybe praying harder to the sky will help your cause?

  1. They love saying oregon since 1987 at least barney hasn’t had a laugh track embedded and the word suckers blaring in background. 🐁 her have anyone else but kotek but watch the z who says they’re impartial will air a 30 part series on her for each day of October followed by a pomeranian dressed as a cowboy riding a 🦄. I’d watch just for the dog.

      1. Not on anything was completely sober at work while that thought popped into my noggin. Much like the government covering up how the kool aid man was at the Waco compound with David koresh.

  2. Meanwhile, cnn is reporting well over 240,000 people crossed the border in April. Title 42 ends Monday. Of course the local news can’t report on it or they lose their jobs… unless it comes to them in the firm of automation

    We’re about to be overrun

      1. Everything I said is fact. When was the last time cnn reported a quarter million people running across the line in a month and title 42 ending at the same time? By them doing so is rather big news

  3. My guess is Kotek is gonna win. I bet it was decided long before we knew she was even an option. Ive watched patterns in Oregon politics and I’ve noticed its usually the candidate that would do the most harm to the state and its residents that usually wins. Same here locally.

  4. Kotek will implode.
    Johnson will plow ahead.
    Drazen will hang tough.

    Everyday Oregonians are sick of their state being the laughing stock of the nation.

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