Tina Kotek of Oregon will be one of first out lesbian governors in US, CNN projects


Democrat Tina Kotek will win Oregon’s open gubernatorial race, according to CNN Projects, and become one of the nation’s first lesbian governors along with Democrat Maura Healey, who won the Massachusetts governorship on Tuesday.

Kotek’s Republican opponent Christine Drazan conceded Friday’s race. The competition to succeed temporary Democratic governor Kate Brown in the deep blue state got unexpectedly tough for Kotek after the independent candidacy of former state senator Betsy Johnson made for a competitive three-way race.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has supported me and put their faith in our campaign. I also want to assure the people of Oregon that every vote will be counted and that their votes have been heard in this election. Unfortunately, given what we know of the pending ballots, the math doesn’t add up for a comeback,” Drazan said in a statement.

No one expected Oregon — a state President Joe Biden won by 16 percentage points in 2020 — to be difficult territory for Democrats, especially since Republicans have not won the governorship since 1982. But Johnson, a former Democrat, proved an unusually strong contender, matching her two rivals in fundraising in this three-way competition involving only women with donations from business leaders, including Nike founder Phil Knight.

Brown’s unpopularity in the state coupled with Johnson’s presence in the race brought Drazan, a former House Minority Leader, into a pitched battle with Kotek, the former Speaker of the Democratic House of Representatives. Republicans make up only about a quarter of voters, while Democrats make up about 34% and unaffiliated Oregonians make up nearly 35%, according to the latest figures from the Oregon Secretary of State.

But Oregonians are unsettled by Portland’s problems with homelessness and the rise in violent crime. The city’s downtown area has also still not recovered from the impact of pandemic-era business closures and more than 100 days of protests against police brutality — some violent — following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer followed in 2020.

Drazan attempted to capitalize on unrest over these issues by arguing that the state’s troubles stemmed from a decade or so of one-party control that had led to a lack of accountability.

But Kotek argued that Drazan was too extreme for Oregon — emphasizing her opposition to abortion rights, for example. Instead of demonstrating her ability to work with both sides, Kotek also said that Drazan showed obstructionist tendencies when she led a parliamentary strike to protest a climate law in 2020. Kotek argued that Drazan’s move undid legislation that, among other things, would have advanced the state’s efforts to improve homelessness. (Drazan’s campaign said the claim was an apology.)

Biden championed Kotek during a swing through western states, urging voters to “stay ahead of the curve” as a progressive state by electing the former House Speaker.

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