By ANDREW SELSKY
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s gubernatorial election took a step closer Tuesday to being a three-way race when unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson delivered thousands of voter signatures to get on the ballot.
If the signatures are verified by election officials, the former state lawmaker will face Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, who is a former Oregon House Speaker; and Republican nominee Christine Drazan, a former leader of the minority GOP in the House.
“Coming onto the ballot through the power of people’s signatures is one of the most meaningful, and foundational, elements of my campaign,” Johnson said. She and several supporters delivered boxes of signature sheets to election officials in Salem.
Johnson’s campaign said it delivered 48,214 signatures to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s election officials. They need to verify 23,744 of them as valid by Aug. 30 for Johnson to qualify for the November ballot. Tuesday was the deadline to deliver the signatures.
“By delivering more than twice the number of signatures needed, we’ve made it very difficult for the political establishment to imagine ways to keep me off the ballot,” Johnson said.
She did not elaborate, but former New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof also hinted at an “establishment” when he was denied a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in January after election officials determined he didn’t meet the three-year Oregon residency requirement.
Kristof blamed “a failing political establishment ” for the setback and asked the Oregon Supreme Court to overturn the decision. The justices ruled in February that he was indeed ineligible. Kristof was then more conciliatory, saying he was disappointed by the court’s decision.
Fagan’s spokesman, Ben Morris, said the signatures submitted by Johnson’s campaign “will go through the standard verification process.”
According to the rules, people who sign a nomination petition for a non-affiliated gubernatorial candidate must be active registered voters in Oregon, and may be from any political party.
Elections Division staff trained in handwriting analysis compare the petition signatures, sometimes chosen at random, to signatures on file in voter registration records. If a signature lacks sufficient points of similarity, it is rejected.
Johnson served in both the Oregon Senate and House and previously belonged to the Republican and Democratic parties before dropping her Democratic Party affiliation to run as an unaffiliated candidate.