Friday, May 24, 2024

Seismic Shift? Oregon Could See First GOP Governor In Four Decades

In what could prove the biggest political earthquake to hit the Pacific Northwest in two generations, Oregon voters may well elect a Republican governor in November.

To put things into perspective, Oregon Democrats haven’t lost a governor’s race in 40 years and the state elected Joe Biden president by 16 percentage points two years ago.

Now, however, this year’s race for the Oregon governorship has become one of the closest contests in the country, reflecting what appears to be mounting voter discontent with one of the nation’s most progressive state governments.

Despite promoting anti-abortion views that would generally qualify as political suicide in a state that promotes itself as a haven for people who can no longer get abortions in their home states, Republican candidate Christine Drazan appears to have a real shot at victory — in part because Democratic-turned-independent third candidate Betsy Johnson, who is running as a centrist, has pulled a considerable amount of support from the Democratic nominee, Tina Kotek.

The latest polling data from analyst FiveThirtyEight show Drazan leading at 37.4 percent, Kotek claiming 34.3 percent, and Johnson pulling in 16.4 percent.

Drazen reportedly received a campaign infusion of about $1 million in recent days from Phil Knight, the billionaire co-founder of the sports giant Nike, Oregon’s largest company.  In the early stages of the race, Knight apparently gave $3.75 million to the Johnson campaign. Democrats have described Knight’s contributions as a rich man using his largess to whimsically sway the electorate.

But the tremors of voter discord have been felt for some time, as Kotek, a former state house speaker, has suffered a series of political afflictions brought about rampant homelessness and safety fears in Portland — which set a record for murders in 2021 and could pass that number this year. Meanwhile, Kotek was instrumental in enacting new restrictions on what Oregon’s cities are able to do to remove homeless people from their streets and also supported the decriminalization of small amounts of hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Then there’s Kotek’s close political alignment with the current Democrat Gov. Kate Brown, proven by polls to be America’s least popular governor. If all that’s not enough, Kotek’s own conduct in Oregon’s capitol will be examined by a legislative committee for accusations lodged by one of her caucus colleagues that she made threats to win support for measures she wanted to see passed.

Drazan, who won a 19-way Republican primary in May, is presenting herself in the mold of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, both Republicans who won in Democratic-leaning states. She’s laid out a plan she calls the “Roadmap For Oregon’s Future,” a multi-faceted answer to the state’s ongoing woes posted on her website.

“This roadmap is the product of countless conversations we’ve had with Oregonians from all walks of life,” said Drazan.“For years under one-party rule, they’ve faced rising crime, failing schools, skyrocketing homelessness, and a growing affordability crisis. They know that we need a new direction and that’s what we are ready to provide on day one of my administration.”

Drazan’s conservative credentials include an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association; her opposition to abortion and her effort to create a permanent election integrity task force after Oregon became the first state to install a universal vote-by-mail system. She earned the endorsement from the Oregon chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“I’m honored to have earned the endorsement of NFIB Oregon, one of the leading advocacy groups for small businesses in our state,” said Drazan. “One-party rule under Kate Brown and my two Democrat opponents has hurt working families across Oregon. As governor, I’ll fight for job growth and build an environment where small businesses can thrive and prosper. We can start a new direction for this state, and I’m ready to deliver starting on day one.”