Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson to launch independent campaign for governor
Johnson will be leaving the Democratic Party by next spring, she told supporters, as she prepares to run for governor outside of Oregon’s two main political parties.
Moderate Democratic State Senator Betsy Johnson will quit her party and run for governor as an independent, she told supporters on Thursday afternoon.
In an email obtained by the Oregon Capital Chronicle, Johnson described herself as offering a reasonable alternative instead of forcing Oregon voters to choose between “another left liberal promising more of the same or a Trump’s right-wing apologist “.
While she is due to leave the Democratic Party by next March, she said she would maintain the values that first led her to register as a Democrat.
“Rest assured, my core values won’t change,” Johnson wrote. “I grew up in a moderate Republican family and became a Democrat because the Republican Party had moved too far to the right. For twenty years, I have been an independent-minded, pro-choice, pro-jobs Democrat serving the people of Northwestern Oregon. This is who I am.”
Johnson has represented Northwestern Oregon in the Senate since 2005 and served four years in State House before that. She is the heiress of a lumber company and her father served in State House as a Republican for over a decade.
Former Republican Secretary of State Bev Clarno said she believes Johnson has a better chance of winning as an independent than anyone else. Johnson’s mother supported Clarno as a state representative and pioneering senator from central Oregon, and Clarno supported Johnson in his political career despite their varying partisan affiliations.
“I think a lot of people will like her because she’s not a hard-line, hard-line supporter,” Clarno said.
Running outside of a big political party brings additional obstacles. While Democrats or Republicans seeking the highest office of state need only to fill out a form and pay a $ 100 fee, Johnson must collect valid signatures from approximately 24,000 registered voters.
But she will avoid an already crowded Democratic primary, where she will have to compete with much more liberal candidates. House Speaker Tina Kotek and State Treasurer Tobias Read have previously announced their campaigns as Democrats, and former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is closing in on her statement. candidacy.
On the Republicans’ side, Salem oncologist and 2016 gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce and Sandy mayor Stan Pulliam are leading more than a dozen prospects.
Pollster John Horvick said Johnson may be the rare independent candidate to achieve a victory without the backing of a major party. Johnson is well known to political and business insiders, and she does well on the stump and in interviews, which could help her, he said.
“If there is an independent candidate in Oregon who could do it, and I think there are very few of them, this is one of them, if perhaps the only one,” he said. said Horvick.
Johnson was one of the state’s most successful fundraisers. She has a war chest of nearly $ 500,000 on her Senate Campaign Finance Committee, while Kotek and Read are hovering around $ 300,000.
In her last two elections, Johnson was also nominated by the Republican Party as a written candidate. In the State Senate, Johnson frequently votes with Republicans, particularly on tax matters, and was able to single-handedly block tax increases.
Johnson has told her supporters she will officially launch her campaign after January 1. She plans to spend the next few months fundraising and building her general election campaign team as Democrats and Republicans face off in their respective primaries.