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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Oregon’s Democratic electorate picks Tina Kotek as the party’s nominee for Governor

Ore­gon’s for­mer Demo­c­ra­t­ic Speak­er of the House Tina Kotek has secured the par­ty’s 2022 guber­na­to­r­i­al nom­i­na­tion and will attempt to keep the state’s top posi­tion in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands this autumn, ini­tial returns show.

With more than 300,000 votes count­ed, Kotek had well over a major­i­ty of the statewide vote (55%+), with more sup­port than the rest of the field combined.

State Trea­sur­er Tobias Read, Kotek’s main com­peti­tor, was in sec­ond with 32.34%. No oth­er can­di­date was get­ting more than 3% support.

Kotek has a com­fort­able lead over Read in the most pop­u­lous coun­ties, from Mult­nom­ah and Wash­ing­ton (Port­land metro area) to Lane (Eugene). Kotek is also win­ning medi­um sized coun­ties like Hood Riv­er and Deschutes (Bend).

Read is pre­vail­ing in some small­er rur­al coun­ties, while trail­ing Kotek more nar­row­ly in parts of the Willamette Val­ley, like Yamhill County.

Read, like cur­rent Gov­er­nor Kate Brown, who is term-lim­it­ed, has pre­vi­ous­ly been elect­ed statewide. How­ev­er, he was unable to turn that expe­ri­ence into an elec­toral advan­tage in his guber­na­to­r­i­al bid.

“Thank you #TeamTi­na — this win is because of you,” the cam­paign tweet­ed after the race was called for Kotek. “You know what’s at stake in Novem­ber, let’s rest up and then get ready to fight for the state that we love!”

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Ore­gon prompt­ly offered its con­grat­u­la­tions, as did the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion (DGA).

“Tina is a proven leader who made record invest­ments in edu­ca­tion and afford­able hous­ing, raised the min­i­mum wage, and secured strong pro­tec­tions for repro­duc­tive rights,” the DGA (which is chaired by ) said. “We’re all-in to elect her gov­er­nor and keep Ore­gon blue in November!”

“Con­grats to Tina Kotek on win­ning the nom­i­na­tion to become Ore­gon’s next gov­er­nor!” said Sen­a­tor Jefff Merkley, who as a for­mer Speak­er is one of Kotek’s pre­de­ces­sors. “I’ve known Tina for many years and I’ve seen how hard she works to make life bet­ter for Ore­go­ni­ans. She will make a fan­tas­tic governor.”

Tobias Read­’s cam­paign did not offer a reac­tion to the results through its social media chan­nels, but Read did call Kotek to con­cede.

Kotek out­spent Read in the pri­ma­ry and was backed by key con­stituen­cies, includ­ing sig­nif­i­cant seg­ments of the labor move­ment and envi­ron­men­tal com­mu­ni­ty. Kotek resigned from the House to cam­paign full time for governor.

Hav­ing won the pri­ma­ry hand­i­ly, Kotek will emerge from the nom­i­nat­ing round in good shape, but still faces the chal­lenge of build­ing an effec­tive statewide cam­paign that can attract enough sup­port to pro­pel Kotek past two oth­er promi­nent women in the gen­er­al elec­tion: Chris­tine Drazan and Bet­sy Johnson.

Repub­li­can vot­ers appear to have nom­i­nat­ed Drazan to be their stan­dard bear­er, while ex-Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tor John­son will appear on the bal­lot as an inde­pen­dent, backed by big mon­ey from Nike’s Phil Knight.

Drazan is one of Kotek’s for­mer col­leagues in the Legislature.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers have been express­ing con­cern for months that John­son’s pres­ence in the race could hurt their nom­i­nee in the autumn, siphon­ing enough votes to poten­tial­ly cre­ate an open­ing for the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. It’s a sce­nario that has come to pass in oth­er states in the last decade, notably Maine.

Kotek is pop­u­lar with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic base and will have no trou­ble win­ning in Port­land and Eugene. But statewide majori­ties are made in the sub­urbs, in places like Clacka­mas Coun­ty. To take down both John­son and Drazan, Kotek needs to be able to con­nect with vot­ers there as well as in the state’s two big urban centers.

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