Democratic former state Rep. Tina Kotek is the winner of a close, three-way race for governor in Oregon. Incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, D, was term limited. This race was made significantly more competitive when former State Sen. Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat, decided to run as an independent.
“I’m not captive to the far left or the far right. As an independent governor, I’m the only one who can actually crack down on crime and homelessness and protect a woman’s right to choose,” Johnson said in a campaign ad.
That led to the three candidates staking out very different positions in the race, targeting a very specific portion of the electorate.
Oregon Public Radio’s Dirk VanderHart described the candidates’ positions: “Kotek as the accomplished progressive, Johnson as the centrist unifier, and Drazan as the change agent for a state that has … one-party control.”
Democrats have had strong control of government in Oregon. In 2020, Democrats won the races for secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer by at least seven points and President Joe Biden won the state over former President Donald Trump by 17 points. Oregon has not had a Republican governor since 1986.
Both Johnson and Drazan criticized Kotek for progressive policies during the trio’s final debate. They said she made key policy mistakes addressing homelessness, and during the protests following George Floyd’s death in 2020.
Kotek meanwhile criticized incumbent Gov. Brown for not declaring an emergency on homelessness. She also blamed Drazen for organizing a walkout from the legislature when they were considering bills that could have addressed the problem.