Phil Knight’s Support for Betsy Johnson Hurts GOP Chances

The Nike co-founder gave Knute Buehler $2.5 million in 2018. He’s going a different direction in 2022.

Betsy Johnson Sen. Betsy Johnson in the 2019 legislative session. (Justin Katigbak)

Here’s the contribution of the week.




Former state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), who is running for governor unaffiliated with any party.


Oregon remains one of only five states that places no limits on campaign contributions in statewide races. Democratic nominees for governor can count on the financial support of labor unions, other progressive groups, and some wealthy individuals. Republicans in Oregon have not won a governor’s race since 1982, and their losing streak seems to have frustrated many of the business community donors who are the GOP’s natural fundraising base.

Although Johnson now belongs to neither major party, she’d already won the support of two of the state’s wealthiest men: Portland real estate investor Jordan Schnitzer ($235,000) and Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle ($225,000). Now, she’s gotten her first check from Knight, whose net worth Bloomberg pegs at $56 billion.

In 2018, Knight gave the GOP nominee for governor, Knute Buehler, $2.5 million. There’s no guarantee he’ll dig that deeply for Johnson, but he’s starting early in what promises to be a pitched three-way battle to succeed Gov. Kate Brown. Johnson’s rivals in both of the major parties are grousing that her fundraising prowess (nearly $4 million, far more than any other candidate) shows she’s the candidate of the 1% rather than the people.

Her campaign coordinator, Emmet Duffy, disagrees. “We think there are a lot of people who want Oregon to get back its independent spirit and force the two parties to actually get things done,” Duffy says. “Phil Knight seems to share a love of this state and frustration with its current government with the rest of Oregon.”


The Nike co-founder could not be reached for comment.

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