Johnson goes ‘full press’ in insurgent campaign for Oregon governor | Government and politics
GARY A. WARNER Oregon Capital Office
The “Betsy Brigades” are preparing to enter Oregon’s political scene, carrying the message of the moderate insurgent seeking to become the second independent governor in state history.
“We’re in full press,” Johnson said in an interview on primary election day. “We’re going to have Betsy brigades mobilizing to collect signatures in every county.”
Johnson’s blending of basketball and golf metaphors is symbolic of what she says Oregon needs in its politics: variety.
“Take the best ideas from the Democrats and the best ideas from the Republicans so Oregon can get its mojo back,” she said.
She is eager to kick off her campaign, sending volunteers dubbed the “Betsy Brigades” to connect with voters in all 36 counties.
While Democrats and Republicans are exhausted and exhausted from the primary races, she jumps into the limelight with the greatest war chest of them all. Johnson has raised over $8 million and currently has $5.3 million in his campaign fund. His campaign drew major contributions from what critics called the “bulldozer and buzzsaw” industries – lumber and construction.
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The biggest amount — $1.75 million — came from Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
Johnson’s first campaign goal is to collect at least 24,000 valid signatures to submit to the secretary of state by August 16.
“We’re going to blow by that number,” she said.
Johnson sought to establish common ground between what she called “the shrill voices of left and right.” She aligned endorsements from the moderate wings of the Democratic and Republican party.
On Friday, she added former Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, R-Oregon. She is backed by former Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, who was the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in 2018, losing to Gov. Kate Brown in her last election.
Johnson, 71, has straddled the political divide for much of his life. Born in Bend and raised in Redmond, her father, Sam Johnson, was a prominent business owner in the lumber industry. He served seven terms in the House, as a Republican. He was mayor of Redmond at the time of his death in 1984.
After earning a law degree and commercial pilot licenses for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, Johnson ran an airline that included firefighting aircraft.
Like her father, she ran for the House, winning the election in 2000.
Unlike her father, she was a Democrat.
She moved to the Senate in 2005 and served until resigning to run for governor.
With the primary on Tuesday, she now knows who her opponents will be if she qualifies for the ballot.
Former House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, won the Democratic nomination. Former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan won the Republican nomination.
Johnson was often at odds with Kotek, most recently over carbon cap legislation that led to Republican walkouts in 2019 and 2020. Passing the bill was a priority for Kotek. While his fate in the Senate was uncertain, Johnson was seen as a likely opponent.
Over the years, Kotek and leaders of the progressive wing of the Legislature Democrats have seen Johnson as an obstacle to legislation on gun control, the environment and the expansion of collective bargaining rights. higher in the ranks of firefighters, police and other public employees.
Johnson already has a soundbite-ready line when asked about Kotek, playing on polls that show Governor Kate Brown has low approval ratings.
“Tina Kotek is more Kate Brown than Kate Brown,” she said.
On the Republican side, Drazan won a fragmented primary with 22% of the vote among 19 candidates. Former President Donald Trump‘s staunch supporters have been unable to rally around a single standard bearer, instead splitting their votes into substantial chunks split among several candidates. This helped Drazan win on election night.
Johnson said it would be impossible for Drazan to appeal to the moderate swing voters who are key to winning the governorship without alienating the conservative GOP base.
“I don’t think she’ll be able to speak her mind,” Johnson said.
Kotek had been the frontrunner for the nomination since announcing his candidacy in September. Democrats planned a counterattack on Johnson long before Kotek’s primary victory on Tuesday.
“Let Betsy Be Betsy”
Oregonians for Ethics, a political action committee that registered with the secretary of state in early February, raised $195,000 to highlight Johnson’s votes against Democratic initiatives. The biggest contributor was the Democratic Governors Conference, with a total of $65,000.
Drazan chafed at suggestions that if Johnson makes it to the polls, the Republican nominee could be nothing more than a spoiler for a Johnson win over Kotek.
In April, Drazan told Willamette Week that Johnson’s break from the Democratic Party was an opportunistic move to take advantage of the first election in which a governor or ex-governor hasn’t been on the ballot since 2002. .
“She could have helped recruit and elect moderate Democrats all these years,” Drazan said.
Johnson says she won’t revise her policy to try to steer more votes away from Kotek or Drazan.
“Let Betsy be Betsy,” Johnson said. “Let me go out and connect with ordinary people who are tired of the status quo.”
Drazan will be the only candidate who is against abortion rights running for governor. That could cap Johnson’s appeal to a large percentage of Republicans.
The abortion issue could escalate even further due to an expected ruling by the United States Supreme Court that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Johnson said his position was “non-negotiable.”
“I am staunchly pro-choice,” she said. “I don’t agree with everything Tina Kotek stands for except when it comes to a woman’s right to choose.”
Johnson said the much-discussed urban-rural divide is a problem for Democrats, whose center of political power is Portland.
Johnson is critical of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and what she sees as local officials allowing sometimes violent protests and sprawling homeless populations to drive out businesses and visitors.
But she considers the popular Republican campaign route against Portland to be flawed.
As the largest city and business center in the state, the city automatically has a huge, sometimes overwhelming, impact on state politics.
“You can’t have Oregon without Portland,” Johnson said. “It’s our metro area.”
While Democrats dominate in Portland and much of the Willamette Valley, Republican political leaders often hail from eastern, central, and southwestern Oregon. Drazan, from Canby in Clackamas County, near Portland, was an exception.
Johnson noted that she grew up in central Oregon and first represented south coast districts around Bandon, then one in the far northwest of the state. Her aviation business took her to all corners of Oregon, with frequent stops in Portland.
Johnson said that made her a unique candidate — not tied by a single spot on the state map for political support. She hopes her campaign will appeal to voters between Salem’s political standards – which she sees as political extremes.
“Rural or anyone who feels disrespected and ignored,” Johnson said. “My loyalty will only be to the people of Oregon.”