Nov. 2, 2022 — With current Oregon governor Kate Brown being ineligible for re-election due to term limits, the 2022 election is an open contest. The leading candidates include Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan, and Independent Party candidate Betsy Johnson. Also running are Libertarian candidate R. Leon Noble and Constitution Party candidate Donice Smith.
The primary issues highlighted across the candidates’ campaigns include housing and homelessness, climate and environment, wildfires, community violence, economic opportunity, and education.
Christine Drazan, the Republican candidate for governor, has experience as a representative and 2021 Republican Leader in the Oregon State House of Representatives. Some of her most notable efforts include her advocacy for lower energy and gas prices, fighting to reopen schools to prevent harm to the economy, and opposing tax increases.
Her plan to address the “crisis in our streets” involves declaring homelessness a state of emergency and coordinating local services to respond to individual needs, repealing Measure 110, which decriminalized many hard drugs, investing in mental health and addiction support, and expanding housing provider incentives.
One of Drazan’s foremost concerns is community safety, specifically homicides in the City of Portland. Her methods to address this include regaining the “trust and confidence of law enforcement,” fully funding state police, ending Brown’s prisoner release program, and working with local governments to oppose cartel activity in southern Oregon.
Drazan’s economic priorities include promoting job growth, cutting taxes on families and small businesses, opposing climate-focused Executive Order 17-20 to prevent raising gas prices, and supporting more lanes on highways to ease congestion.
She also proposes a plan to resolve the low high school graduation rate in Oregon, involving focus on academic accountability, teaching students “how to think, not what to think,” restoring open enrollment to expand choice of schools, increasing classroom time and enrichment opportunities, and mandating curriculum transparency.
On natural resources and environment, Drazan will prioritize working lands in an environmentally sustainable manner, managing forests to minimize fire risks, investing in storage and conservation to meet local water needs, protecting responsible farming practices and family-owned farms, and supporting fisheries and resource stewardship.
Drazan also opposes most gun control measures.
“We need to recognize that [gun safety] is a critical issue — and I care about keeping people safe — but we cannot abandon our concepts of what our freedoms mean,” said Drazan during the first Oregon Governor Debate.
Regarding reproductive rights, one of the most heavily discussed issues this year surrounding any political race, Drazan has said, “Roe is codified into Oregon law. Regardless of my personal opinions on abortion, as governor, I will follow the law. My administration will be focused on the issues Oregonians care most about: fixing our schools, addressing the crisis in the streets, and making our state a more affordable place to live and raise a family.”
Betsy Johnson, Independent Party candidate for Oregon governor, served in the Oregon House and Senate for over 20 years and retired as chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee last year in preparation to run for governor.
Johnson’s objectives to alleviate the homeless crisis are to end “dangerous and unregulated camping in public spaces” by creating more designated areas and shelters, address the role of mental illness, drugs, addiction, and lawlessness in the homeless crisis, and end the housing supply crisis.
“Oregon needs to build 580,000 new housing units over the next two decades just to close our housing supply deficit and keep up with population growth,” says Johnson. “Our current anemic pace of home construction will leave us woefully short of meeting that need. As governor, I will get the politicians and outdated rules, regulations, and fees out of the way so we can fast-track construction and reduce the cost of building all types of housing options so every Oregonian can afford a roof over their head and a place to call home.”
One of her other major concerns is the role drugs play in crime, homelessness, and violence. “We have become so lackadaisical about drugs in this state that we are accelerating what I think is a mental health crisis," said Johnson. “We are 50th in the [provision] of mental health services. The state needs to step up and fund services in rural places, there needs to be adequate housing for the workforce, there may need to be incentives to draw the workforce to rural places, but it is a disaster. We all as Oregonians should be ashamed that our fabric of mental health services is as frayed as it is.”
Johnson is a self-described “lifelong responsible gun owner and collector” who has supported the rights of law-abiding gun owners throughout her political career, however she also believes in instituting measures to better prevent guns from reaching those who would misuse them. If elected, she will enforce a stronger background check system and raise the age to buy certain semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21.
Her climate and environmental plans include improving forest management, promoting green energy, and supporting greater innovation in emission-reducing technologies. With this plan she seeks to strike a balance between aiding the environment and maintaining the health of the economy, neither ignoring climate change nor “[destroying] good paying jobs and rural economies to do it.”
Johnson’s plans for public schools include restoring academic standards and graduation requirements, support for individual student achievement, making many schooling options accessible to families, keeping politics out of schools, and improving job training for students.
Tina Kotek, the Democratic candidate for governor, has served in both the Oregon House of Representatives and as state Speaker of the House. In these positions, her accomplishments have included championing more that $1.5 billion for housing needs, passing legislation to promote 100% clean electricity by 2040, working to increase the minimum wage, and leading on gun safety legislation as well as Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act.
Homelessness is one of her primary concerns.
“As governor, I’m not going to wait around to be asked about this topic,” said Kotek in an interview with KGW News. “My first job is to talk to mayors and county commissioners and say, ‘What do you need? What can we be doing differently?’ The state should be a partner, a friend, and a helper, not a barrier to making change.”
Her priorities include ending “unsheltered homelessness for veterans, families with children, unaccompanied young adults, and people 65 years and older by 2025,” building enough housing to accommodate the current unhoused population, and reducing the racial homeownership gap by 20% by 2027.
Regarding the environment, Kotek's plans if elected are to increase use of zero-emission vehicles and public transit to reduce pollution and to move away from fossil fuel usage in homes and commercial buildings. She will also work to prevent wildfires by modernizing the firefighting force, creating fire-adapted communities, and maintaining fire-resistant landscapes.
Building on her previous efforts towards gun safety legislation, Kotek plans to institute complete background checks before any firearm purchase, increase the age from 18 to 21 to purchase semi-automatic rifles, and invest in the mental health programs of local governments to respond to crises.
“Gun violence is preventable and we have to do better,” said Kotek. “I don’t think this is the type of state or country we want to live in when these things happen — because it’s really only happening in our country — and I think we can do better.”
Her priorities for economic opportunity include improving access to education for workers through community colleges and state-certified apprenticeship programs, investing in “opportunities for women, veterans, and historically disadvantaged communities,” ensuring the success of Oregon’s paid family and medical leave program, and ensuring justice for victims of workplace discrimination.
Her education plans are focused on improving Oregon’s graduation rates to 90% by 2027, ensuring that high school students complete a financial literacy course, and increasing educational achievement for rural youth.
Kotek also will ensure that Oregon will continue to be “a safe harbor for anyone seeking access to reproductive health care – because your zip code should never determine whether you can get the health care you need.”
People can learn more about all the candidates in the Oregon Voters Guide at oregonvotes.gov/voters-guide/english/votersguide.html.