Republicans Gain Momentum in Oregon Governor Race

Oregon Governor Candidate Polls Show a Republican Could Win For the First Time in 40 Years

Oregon’s governor race has drawn national attention, with Republican nominee Christine Drazan polling just a few points behind Democratic nominee Tina Kotek. Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson is also a major contender, drawing support from business interests such as Nike founder Phil Knight.

All three candidates are focused on solving Oregon’s problems. But they differ on how to do so.

Kotek’s victory

Democrat Tina Kotek is expected to win Oregon’s governor’s race, with polling suggesting she will narrowly beat Republican challenger Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson. Kotek has won the support of unions and business leaders, including Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who contributed millions to the contest.

The election comes at a moment of division for the state, with a growing homelessness crisis, rising crime and the costs of groceries fueling voter anger. Many also dislike the policies of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who has one of the lowest popularity ratings in the country.

On the campaign trail, Kotek focused on the people at the center of complex issues. She talked to a Eugene custodian worried about wages not keeping up with the cost of living, a Bend abortion access helpline volunteer and an Applegate Valley farmer concerned about climate change. She emphasized her legislative record, which includes passing laws on the minimum wage and raising the age to buy cigarettes.

Drazan’s victory

With Democrats holding a 9.5-point registration advantage and winning every gubernatorial race since 1986, Drazan is an unlikely victor. But her strategy to win over moderate voters appears to be paying off, with her taking a more measured approach on national issues (she scrubbed her anti-abortion views from her website) and attracting financial support from the business lobby.

But voters are also concerned about crime, homelessness and inflation. Those are all problems that Kotek has blamed on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who is term-limited and has some of the lowest approval ratings in the country.

In contrast, Drazan blames those problems on Republicans. She has focused her attacks on the state’s booming timber industry and the COVID-19 pandemic, while downplaying her own unpopular positions on national issues (she scrubbed her stance against abortion from her campaign website). But can Drazan translate her skills as an effective critic into capably governing if she wins? That’s the big question in Oregon.

Johnson’s victory

The surprise victory of unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson sets up a truly unusual Oregon governor’s race. She now has a chance to siphon votes from both Kotek and Drazan, making it hard for either of them to win the election. However, the latest polling shows that she is still trailing the two candidates by a wide margin.

One reason for that may be that she isn’t offering specific policies. She argues that the state should de-regulate development and increase police enforcement, but she doesn’t explain how she would get there. Her policy plans on homelessness and housing are similarly vague.

Her opponents are more detailed in their proposals. For example, Kotek is calling for more housing, while Drazan is proposing to build a homeless shelter in every county. In addition, both candidates are promoting a broader economic agenda. They are competing for a vote from wealthy donors who believe that they should be able to influence government.

Polls

Polling in the Oregon governor’s race has shown that a Republican could win for the first time in 40 years. In the latest poll, former Republican House minority leader Christine Drazan has a slim lead over Democratic former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson.

The tight race has sparked national attention and brought in big money for both campaigns. Kotek has hosted events with progressive Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and President Joe Biden, while Drazan has welcomed Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to her campaign.

Drazan’s centrist message focuses on the need to restore balance to politics after years of Democratic dominance in the state. She has also emphasized the threat of climate change, although she supports slowing down mitigation measures to invest in longer-term solutions. Her opponent, Kotek, has honed in on the issue of abortion rights, arguing that Drazan’s anti-abortion stance is hiding her real agenda. Her campaign has aired ads with Cecile Richards, the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

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