Kristof exit leaves two-way race in Democratic primary for Oregon governor – Oregon Capital Chronicle
With Nick Kristof out, it’s a two-way race in the Democratic primary for governor — and if Oregon’s 40-year history of electing only Democrats to the top job continues, Tina Kotek or Tobias Read will be the next person living in the Governor’s Mansion.
Thursday’s Oregon Supreme Court decision to uphold Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s decision to exclude Kristof from the ballot means Kotek, Read and a dozen lesser-known Democrats will face off in the May primary . The other candidates have until March 8 to enter the race.
At a press conference on Thursday, Kristof said he would support other Democratic candidates as they work to resolve the issues that matter to him, but it’s too early for him to consider supporting the one of its former competitors.
“I had a word this morning and then I had to figure out what to say this morning,” he said. “My phone rang and I haven’t really had a chance to read any messages or think about it, so I’m going to have to digest that and figure that out.”
Kristof made his short campaign a referendum on how Democrats who have ruled the state for decades have handled homelessness and drug addiction, particularly in the Portland area. He sought to make Kotek, who represented North and Northeast Portland in the House for 15 years and served as Speaker of the House for nine, the symbol of an incompetent political establishment.
One of his most recent campaign deals last Friday was a payment of nearly $14,000 to a California-based opposition research firm for something called “Kotek Project Initiation” in fundraising records. state campaign.
Pollster John Horvick said it would be interesting to see if Kotek, Read or other candidates try to pick up on Kristof’s message about homelessness and addiction.
So far, Kotek has focused on his accomplishments in the Legislative Assembly, including leading efforts to create more affordable housing by reducing local zoning restrictions, raising the minimum wage and spending more money in public schools. Meanwhile, Read has spent his campaign talking about economic development, mandating Covid vaccines and making sure kids are in the classroom.
“Kristof was going to try to make this race part of a referendum on Democrats and how they’ve handled policies to really support or hurt those who are most vulnerable, especially the homeless and, and that voice is now gone,” Horvick said. . “I’m curious to see other candidates respond to this. Did they try to fill that space?
Kotek said in a brief statement that she hopes Kristof will continue to work to help the people of Oregon.
“Nick Kristof has long written about the pressing issues facing Oregonians and his voice will continue to be important as we tackle Oregon’s biggest issues,” she said. “I look forward to working with him as a fellow Democrat.”
In his own lengthy statement, Read asked Kristof supporters to support him.
“It’s now a two-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and the choice is clear,” he said. “Carry on with the status quo in Salem or vote for Tobias Read, someone who isn’t afraid to take on the pressing challenges we face in Oregon.”
In the short term, Kristof’s exit helps Kotek, said Jim Moore, a professor at Pacific University who studies Oregon politics. Both candidates have focused on housing, and with Kristof gone, Kotek may be the leading candidate to talk about housing in the Democratic primary, he said.
But Kristof’s campaign money could still play a major role in the primary, Moore said. He raised $2.7 million, more than twice as much as Kotek or Read, and he still has around $1.6 million available.
“He’s got a big chunk of change there, and if he wants to use that in the race to favor one or the other, or hold it until the general election or do what he’s going to , there’s potential there that he could play a major role with just the funding,” Moore said.
Kristof said he didn’t know what he was going to do with the money and needed to look into potential legal issues. He has refunded a handful of donations after Fagan disqualified him, and his fundraising pace has slowed over the past month.
He has 10 days to make changes to his campaign bank account, said Deborah Scroggin, director of the state’s electoral division.
He can decide to run for another office and reallocate his campaign account, he can donate the money to other political action committees, or he can return it to donors and close his bank account, Scroggin said. He cannot use campaign funds for personal expenses.
Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat who resigned from the state Senate late last year to run for governor with no party affiliation, said she was disappointed Kristof could not run . She noted that almost three weeks passed between the end of the pleadings and the court decision.
“Given the length of time the court took to issue its decision, it must not have been as straightforward as Secretary of State Fagan originally stated,” she said. “This decision is further proof that the two-party system is not working for Oregon.”
Conventional wisdom suggests Johnson might be relieved to have Kristof out of the running, Horvick said. She is positioning herself as the moderate, independent choice between the far left and the far right, and having Kotek and a Trumpy Republican in the general election would help her make that distinction more clear to voters.
“Kristof was discussing the failures of Democratic leadership in the state,” Horvick said. “She does the same thing. On paper, he would have been a tougher challenger for Johnson because they’re trying to fill that same space, and so that gives Johnson a cleaner argument to pitch to voters.
Kristof said he didn’t think about what to expect other than taking time to “chill” with his wife in Lincoln City or along a trail.
Casey Kulla, a Democratic Yamhill County commissioner who also grows vegetables and cannabis, repeatedly encouraged Kristof to run for another position and contacted him again Thursday morning.
Kulla was the first elected official to submit his candidacy for governor more than a year ago, but he put those plans aside last month to run for commissioner of labor, a statewide, nonpartisan position overseeing businesses and employees.
There are many options, Kulla said. Democrats need a strong candidate to compete in a redesigned House district where Republicans hold a slight edge in voter registration. The seat is now held by State Representative Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, who is running for Congress. Two Yamhill County commission seats are up for grabs, including one to which Kulla is not seeking re-election due to his candidacy for labor commissioner, and Oregon’s new 6th congressional district contains the county of Yamhill.
“We have what should be the most expensive congressional primary race in history,” Kulla said. “And so I’m like, ‘Hey, you’re good. You have connections, you have ideas, let’s do it.
Kristof’s history of writing on international affairs and his national profile seem perfect for Congress, Kulla said. Yamhill County also needs local solutions to issues like homelessness, public education and economic recovery from Covid that Kristof has focused on during his campaign, he said.
Moore said he expects Kristof to run, or at least consider running, again for a statewide position.
“I think he is deeply invested in the state and deeply wants to help make it better,” he said. “And he sees the way to do that is to be in one of these statewide offices.”