Oregon Elect An Anti-woke, Pro-gun Independent As Governor, Is It Possible?
Betsy Johnson is entirely in control of the vehicle as she navigates through a desolate urban nightmare. She says brusquely, “God knows we need a meaningful answer to the homeless situation. Tent cities and sidewalks covered in trash pass quickly.
She continues by saying that it will bring fresh leadership and a different kind of politics that embraces the best ideas of Democrats and Republicans, regardless of party affiliation. Johnson, who is running for governor of Oregon with an uncharacteristically strong campaign, adds, “We shouldn’t have to pick.”
This raises the possibility that the politically independent, pro-gun, pro-corporate, woke-bashing state of Oregon may elect Johnson as its next governor. Or, even more unexpectedly, a Republican, which hasn’t happened since Ronald Reagan’s administration.
Despite all the attention on the House and Senate, there are 36 gubernatorial races in November. Their significance has grown as opinions on abortion, guns, and other topics increasingly vary according to which party is in charge in a particular state.
There won’t likely be a party shift in most races. After Republicans selected Trump supporters in those blue states, Maryland and Massachusetts are in line for a Democratic takeover. Republicans expect to unseat Democratic incumbents in Kansas, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
However, pickup possibilities may be out of reach after nominating extreme right-wing extremists in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Republican interest in Oregon, which last elected a Republican governor in 1982, has increased.
If for no other reason than Democrats and people who lean that way outweigh Oregon Republicans, Democrat Tina Kotek, the former speaker of the state House, will likely win in November.
But because of the mathematical nature of the three-way race, it is very feasible that Johnson or the Republican nominee, Christine Drazan, may win with less than 50% of the vote. Theoretically, a victory with 35% of the franchise might end years of Democratic rule along the Left Coast, from Baja California to the Canadian border.
Drazan, a former state House leader for the Republicans, is waging a fierce campaign against one-party control in Salem, the state capital. When the three contenders faced off in a debate in July, Drazan stated, “We need real leadership and real change to call the Democrats to account.”
But Johnson’s presence and the hope that she can steal enough votes from Kotek are the only things giving her a shot. Johnson served in the Legislature for 20 years as heir to wealth in forestry, representing rural Oregon as a center-right Democrat.
Last December, she left the party and resigned from the state Senate to concentrate on her independent bid for governor. She compares herself to Goldilocks since she is neither too left nor too right, yet her sarcastic demeanor and scathing criticism of rivals bear little resemblance to the sweet fairy tale heroine.
Johnson claims that Drazan “wants to be the first anti-choice governor in Oregon history,” eroding the state’s ardent support for morally acceptable abortion. Kotek, who is running to be the first openly lesbian governor of the country, says she “wants to bring the culture wars to your kid’s classroom.”
She would get us all up and ready. If Oregonians needed something new and different, it would appear that this is the moment, as surveys indicate a great deal of dissatisfaction. The outgoing governor, Democrat Kate Brown, is one of the least liked governors in America.
Len Bergstein, a public relations consultant who has been active in Oregon politics since the 1970s, stated that “people are highly concerned, outraged, and anxious about the status quo.”
Bergstein said that many folks believe we’ve lost our way after fatal wildfires, years of epidemics, and weeks of right-versus-left rallies that turned portions of downtown Portland into an armed camp.
Johnson plays on these grievances with her TV advertisement that features her driving through a run-down Portland and her contemptuous conflation of the two major parties. Oregonians, according to her, are skeptical of the extremist right.
“And the progressive left terrifies them.” Despite the apparent irritation, Oregon is not Alabama or Arkansas. Two states with solid conservative traditions and numerous of Johnson’s ideas are obviously at odds with the region’s political climate.
She responds to the devastation of gun violence by reciting NRA talking points about enhancing mental health services and bolstering school security as the proud owner of a Cold War-era machine gun.
“If ever Oregonians were hungering for something new and different, now would seem the time, with polls showing deep discontent and the incumbent, Democrat Kate Brown, leaving office as one of the least popular governors in America.” #orpol https://t.co/nOhhQBJtkR
— Betsy Johnson (@senbetsyjohnson) September 14, 2022
Her suggested strategy to combat climate change, improving Oregon’s forest management, is reminiscent of President Donald Trump‘s widely mocked suggestion that the nation rakes its forests to prevent wildfires.
She strikes populist tones and claims to speak for the “pissed off,” but she has significantly profited from the backing of CEOs and other wealthy people. Johnson has raised more money than her competitor’s thanks to a $1.75 million contribution from Phil Knight, the billionaire founder of Nike and the richest man in Oregon.
For her part, Kotek faces the difficult task of persuading people that despite how awful things appear, they would improve after years in power. Eventually.
The Democratic former House speaker opened the first—and only—debate for governor by saying, “No matter what the other candidates say here today, there are no quick cures.” There are no miraculous treatments.
It’s a common and persistent idea to imagine a person who is only answerable to voters coming in to make radical changes and purge the political system of its injustices. Many independent and third-party candidates have given it a shot. Most fail to take off.
Johnson has already surpassed expectations with tremendous fundraising and strong polling results. She might become the next governor of Oregon if she lucks out. The Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Z. Barabak writes on politics in California and the West.
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