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.