Guide to ’22 Oregon Gubernatorial Candidates

Homelessness, gun control, abortion access, decriminalization weigh heavily on the November election

Illustration of a ballot with three candidate's faces next to empty checkboxes.
Alex Nash / The Mossy Log

The 2022 gubernatorial election is being held on Nov. 8. In addition to congressional candidates, state-wide offices, judges of various bodies and a handful of measures, there will be three competitive mayoral candidates.

Betsy Johnson is an independent candidate, unaffiliated with any party, and an alum of the Lewis & Clark Law School. Her primary goals are managing Portland’s homeless and public safety crisis, improving public schools, making Oregon more affordable, legislatively supporting jobs and job creators more, holding the government accountable and ending state COVID-19 mandates for businesses, schools and government workers. 

She is very critical of Governor Kate Brown, Mayor Ted Wheeler and opponent Tina Kotek’s performances.

“Oregon is headed in the wrong direction,” Johnson said. “We have turned the southern part of the state into cartel-run drug land.”

Johnson, the best funded candidate in the race, has served in the Oregon State Legislature for more than 20 years, her most recent position being Joint Ways and Means Committee Chair.

Johnson takes her independence from being an advocate for bipartisanship and said that it does not matter whether you voted for Joe Biden or Donald Trump, her only allegiance is to the state of Oregon.

Johnson said that the burden of fighting against global warming should not fall on rural Oregon. She has an A rating with National Rifle Association (NRA). With the help of some Portlanders, she turned an abandoned jail into housing for unhoused people and plans to continue this crusade. She is willing to expand developable land for housing and commerce, but she is not willing to take forest or farmland. Lastly, she thinks it is important for the future of the state of Oregon that it is recognized that mentally ill and drug-addicted people do not make good decisions for themselves. 

Christine Drazen, the Republican candidate, began her portion of the 2022 gubernatorial debate with a question.

“Are you happy with the way that things are going?” Drazen said. “Is your family better off, is your community better off today than it was four years ago or eight years ago? Now that you have heard from my opponents on the stage, they are the status quo.” 

Drazen favors a new direction: stronger schools, crime reduction and affordable housing. Similarly to Johnson, she has an A rating with the NRA.

Drazen says that Oregon should declare a homelessness state of emergency, and that climate protection should not be prioritized when housing is a necessity. Two years earlier, Tina Kotek proposed that the same measure be instated. 

Drazen’s plan for the housing crisis is connected to her plan for increased policing and re-criminalizing drugs. She is in support of building more structures, but is in favor of loosening regulations on developers to do so.

Drazen claimed that due to Governor Kate Brown’s vote to close schools during the pandemic, children suffered the most. She says that state politics are different from national politics and has not sought President Donald Trump’s support of her campaign, but was against his impeachment. She is pro-life, but believes in equal pay and says that companies should be liable to prove it. 

Drazen was elected to the Oregon State House of Representatives in 2018 and served as the minority leader from 2019 to 2022. During her tenure and well before it, Tina Kotek was the house speaker, the first out lesbian in her position. She started in 2013 and stepped down similarly in 2022 to run for governor.

“A lot of Oregonians are struggling right now, and we have real challenges facing us,” Kotek said. “We have a housing and homelessness crisis, an addiction and overdose epidemic, threats to our very democracy here in our state.”

Homelessness is a significant issue for the state, and each candidate has been able to recognize it. Similarly to Johnson, Kotek’s focus is on building more housing. She has already brought $1.5 billion to increased housing in the past 5 years. Kotek also hopes to protect those on the brink of homelessness and make race a less predictive indicator of homelessness.

In contrast to the other candidates, she mentions an upward trend in gun violence and how she has lobbied for expanded background checks, safe storage laws and “common-sense” gun legislation. On Aug. 28 Donald Ray Surrett Jr. and Glen Edward Bennett were killed in a Bend Safeway parking lot by a 20 year-old shooter who then took his own life. Kotek cites this incident during the gubernatorial debate and suggests a change in purchasing age from 18 to 21.

Kotek’s additional priorities include curbing climate change, supporting veterans, protecting Oregon from wildfires, supporting racial justice, improving education and childcare and supporting mentally ill people. She would like to reform campaign finance so that less money can come from a single source. Kotek would also like to provide economic opportunity to working families and protect women’s reproductive rights.

All three candidates fit pretty cleanly with the morals of their platforms of their party, but defining candidates by party spares the voter from investigating further. This can be a harmful philosophy as most want those voting differently to do just that. 

Additionally, despite the clear party lines this is not a typical race (by historical standards) as all three candidates are women. Oregon politics are no longer a boys club, and this election is ensuring that. Lastly, in the majority of polls Christine Drazen is leading by a slim margin. Although the accuracy of pre-election polls is questionable, she could become the first Republican Governor of Oregon since Vic Atiyeh in the 1980’s.

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