Three Gubernatorial Candidates, Three Vastly Different Visions for Oregon

Republican nominee Christine Drazan, left; and Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, middle, listen to unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson speak during the gubernatorial debate hosted by Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association at Mount Hood Oregon Resort in Welches, Ore., Friday, July 29, 2022. (Jaime Valdez/Pamplin Media Group via AP, Pool)
Jaime Valdez/Pamplin Media Group via AP

Oregon has three candidates vying for a chance to reshape the state: a pro-abortion Democrat, a Republican who wants to refund the police and re-criminalize hard drugs, and a Democrat-turned-independent pitching herself as the best of both worlds.

All three candidates wrote op-eds for the Oregonian over the weekend, distinguishing themselves from their competitors and outlining their visions for how to rid Oregon of rampant homelessness, drug addiction, and crime.

While Oregon is known as a blue state, the state’s current Democrat Gov. Kate Brown has ranked as one of the least popular governors in the country. Judging by the current climate and leadership, political analysts have shifted projections of the race from “Likely Democrat” to “Democrat-leaning” or “Toss-up,” sensing that Oregonians may be put off by the results of extreme far-left policies.

Christine Drazan (R)

Former Oregon House Republican leader and GOP nominee Christine Drazan wrote on Sunday that “families are less stable, streets are less safe and opportunities have been dimmed by politicians who have pushed to exercise power instead of serving Oregonians.”

She referred to her plan, “Roadmap for Oregon’s Future,” and listed several policy priorities, including declaring homelessness a state of emergency, repealing Measure 110, which decriminalized hard drugs and “worsened the addiction crisis,” and expanding mental health services.

She also said she wants to tackle the violent aftermath of the “defund the police” movement and support law enforcement. She wrote:

Portland’s experience with increased violence is front page news. Homicides in 2021 were up 207 percent from 2019. People no longer feel safe in their own neighborhoods. Politicians have destabilized law enforcement by defunding the police and allowing political agendas to weaken community safety. My administration will stand with law enforcement and help put more officers on the streets to restore safety in our neighborhoods. 

Drazan hit out at her opponents for “link[ing] arms with Kate Brown to make Oregon one of the most expensive states in the nation.”

She said, adding that Oregon is “not in this mess by accident.”:

Together, they supported a $2 billion-a-biennium hidden sales tax and more than $5.3 billion worth of new gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. Their votes have added an extra layer of inflation at a time when we can least afford it. I will lead by vetoing unnecessary new tax increases, putting a moratorium on new mandates and reviewing existing regulations that drive up costs within my first 100 days.

“We can’t afford more of the same failed ideas that have harmed Oregon and left too many Oregonians behind. I hope you will join me in working to lead our state in a new direction,” she continued. 

Drazan, a pro-life mother of three, also took to Fox News this week to criticize Democrats for focusing on the issue of abortion and ignoring other problems the state is facing. She said:

Abortion is the only thing in fact that Democrat ever want to talk about because they are ashamed of their failed record in my state. So they want to pivot to questions around abortion and choice, but the truth is, the reality here in Oregon, that there are significant issues that we need to work on together. And talking to Oregon voters exclusively about abortion and choice is not the issue that Oregonians are asking for leadership on right now. They are asking for leadership on our schools, affordability, criminal justice, community safety, and frankly we just need our beautiful state to function again, and that’s what’s been missing for far too long in Oregon.

However, the gubernatorial-hopeful did saysshe is “anxious to work across the aisle.”

“But if they want to advance an extreme policy agenda, I am going to stand up and veto it,” she said.

Betsy Johnson (Independent)

Johnson, a former Democrat state senator, is running for governor as an independent candidate. She is promoting herself as a middle-of-the-road option and casting her opponents as left-wing and right-wing extremists. Johnson wrote in the Oregonian:

We’re losing the Oregon we love. Most of us agree the state is going in the wrong direction, yet we are more divided than ever. Nine counties have already voted to explore leaving Oregon for Idaho. There’s a real hunger for commonsense leadership for our state. Oregonians are distrustful of the radical right and terrified of the progressive left. 

She continued;

The two parties, dominated by their ideological extremes, would rather fight than find solutions. Every election we’re asked to pick between them. Right now, for instance, Oregonians are being asked whether we want to protect a woman’s right to choose or improve public safety, end tent cities and adequately fund the police. I’m the only one running for governor who wants to do both. We need to come together to fix the problems that can unite us: protecting our kids and their future, finding affordable places to live in Oregon, solving the homeless crisis.

Johnson also proposes repealing the “failed experiment to legalize hard drugs” and to support the police and the Second Amendment, while mandating “stronger background checks and raising the age to purchase certain guns.” She also wrote about ending street camping and addressing the “complete failure of our mental health system.”

Johnson accused her competitor Tina Kotek (D) and other Democrats of being beholden to teachers’ union cut requirements and talked about protecting Oregon schools.

“I will listen to parents and teachers and respect local control. I believe our schools should educate, not indoctrinate. Every Oregon child deserves a quality education and fair shot at success,” she wrote. 

Johnson additionally proposes stopping new taxes and fees that drive up everyday costs, stating that “quality of life depends on affordability.” She said:

It doesn’t matter how beautiful Oregon is if you can’t afford to live here. …I may seem an improbable leader to shake up a broken system. But that is exactly what I am. I am a fed-up daughter of Oregon who refuses to give up on the state I love without one hell of fight. Join me.

Tina Kotek (D)

Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) presented herself as a “problem solver” who will fight to expand “abortion access” — although abortion is already unlimited in the state. In 2017,  the state legislature passed a bill that requires private medical insurance and Medicaid to cover the cost of abortion, and codified the “right to gender-affirming care.” Kotek, who led the House from 2013-2022, bragged that she is backed by Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon and “passed the nation’s strongest abortion access law, protecting Oregonians despite the eventual overturning of Roe vs. Wade.”

Kotek, who wrote Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in defense of protesters in 2020, decried crime in her op-ed — although instead of pointing to “defund the police” rhetoric or the so-called “bail reform” she supported, she pointed to mass shootings and gun violence and criticized Drazan and Johnson for earning “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association. (NRA).

She did propose placing state troopers in rural communities, increasing new officer trainings, and partnering with the federal government to “fight the drug cartels.” It should be noted that Kotek has been supportive of  decriminalizing hard drugs.

During her time as House speaker, Kotek said she “fought successfully to get funding and policy changes that increase shelter capacity, rent assistance, eviction protections, affordable housing construction and homeownership.”

“As governor, I will end unsheltered homelessness for the most vulnerable people living on our streets, especially veterans and seniors. We will build more housing and expand access to mental health and addiction services,” she wrote. 

She also touted how she “fought to raise minimum wage” and said she will “protect families from the rising cost of living…,” proposed pumping $1 billion more every year into education, and said she “put Oregon on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2040…” to fight “climate change.”


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