An Uncertain Outcome for Oregon’s Governor Race


Courtesy of Element5 Digital

President Joe Biden visited Oregon for the second time this year Oct. 15. He attended two events, including a fundraising event where he endorsed and demonstrated support for Tina Kotek’s campaign for Oregon Governor. 

This visit comes at a crucial time politically, with midterm voting starting in mere days and ballots going out to registered voters on Oct. 19. Currently, polling shows a very close run between Oregon’s governor candidates, Tina Kotek (D) and Christine Drazan (R). This is unusual for Oregon, a state that has not had a Republican governor since 1987. The close race between the two parties is due to third party candidate Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat who is now running as an Independent. Biden endorsed Kotek, seeking to increase her voter support over her independent challenger. 

“I know it’s been a rough four or five years for Americans, but we are making progress,” Biden said. “But folks are still struggling.” 

The announcement of Biden’s visit surprised many Oregon voters, as this is the second made by the president this year, illustrating the pressure Democrats are feeling in traditionally blue states. 

To boost Kotek’s chances in the coming midterm, Biden highlighted recent achievements Democrats have made in making healthcare more affordable and addressing climate concerns. 

“My father used to say everyone deserves a little breathing room. You sit down at the end of the day, at the end of the month, at the kitchen table and determine whether [or not] you are able to pay all the bills that month…Well that’s what this is about– what we are about,” Biden said. “You know a lot of people don’t have any breathing room, especially when it comes to healthcare and prescription drugs.” 

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, signed into law Aug. 16, includes sections to help lower the cost of prescription medication. Biden pointed to the act as a key example of the Democratic party’s efforts in recent months in order to drum up support for Kotek. However, Oregon voter Cristopher Guiney remarked that he feels unrepresented by the candidate options in his state.

“I feel pretty dissatisfied, I feel like we have two very extreme candidates, neither of which represent my viewpoints very well. I don’t like Tina Kotek and I really don’t like Drazan. I also feel like voting with my conscience [by voting for Johnson] is akin to tossing my vote in the garbage,” Guiney said. 

Guiney offered an alternative as the solution to his problem: ranked choice voting.

“I would feel much better about the situation if Oregon were to implement a ranked choice system, which I hope would give more opportunity to parties outside of the traditional red versus blue, as well as make them actually consider compromising on moderate issues,” Guiney said.

Kotek (D) is running on a platform of housing the homeless, climate action, economic opportunity and healthcare for all. Drazan (R) seeks to address homelessness by declaring a state of emergency, repeal Measure 110, expand investments in addiction and mental health and expand housing provider incentives. Meanwhile, Johnson’s (I) key points are addressing homelessness and public safety, improving public schools, making Oregon more affordable for working families, ending COVID-19 mandates and holding government officials accountable. 

The effect of the uncertain Oregon midterms can be felt in its neighboring states as well, with citizens in Washington considering how the outcome of the midterm elections may impact regional politics. Washington has already seen an uptick in out-of-state citizens seeking abortions, and some wonder if voters disillusioned by local candidates will seek permanent residence elsewhere.

“I think that any regional election has the ability to impact surrounding states,” said Nathan Eller, a Seattle University third-year diagnostic ultrasound major. “One reason is that people could migrate depending on each states policies, for example the recent abortion ruling.” 

Whether the visit from Biden is successful in boosting Kotek’s voter popularity remains to be seen, with both Drazan and Kotek remaining neck and neck in the race. Oregon voters, as well as citizens nationwide, look to the upcoming 2022 elections to be an impactful one.