Linn County Republicans Fume at “Unacceptable” Defections From Christine Drazan

“Enthusiasm has appeared to fizzle into...apathy,” writes the vice chair of the county GOP.

(Brian Breneman)

Oregon Republicans have long viewed 2022 as the best opportunity in 40 years to reclaim the governor’s mansion. But an email from one party committee chides Republicans for potentially squandering that chance with apathy and division.

“We must recognize that some are not fully backing our Gubernatorial nominee Christine Drazan,” wrote the Linn County Republican Party Central Committee in a Sept. 13 email. “As Republicans this is unacceptable.”

The spur for the email was disappointing fundraising totals at the Linn County Republican Party Central Committee Gala, held Sept. 10 in Albany. After expenses, the dinner and auction raised $16,588, just over half of the $30,000 goal. That will reduce the amount of money the county party can spend on candidates this November, the email said.

That might sound like some small-scale frustration, but the email goes on to blame paltry fundraising on a wider apathy among Republicans going into a crucial election.

“Many jumping on the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ bandwagon were ready to fight, and we saw this energy at our events selling merchandise, and during our 2021 Gala that delivered record results,” the email says. “In 2022 that enthusiasm has appeared to fizzle into a melaze [sic] of apathy.”

Ben Roche, vice chair of the Linn County Republican Party, tells WW that he wrote the email. He says it should be understood within the context of a surge in engagement after the 2020 presidential election defeat, which has since deflated, and that it would read differently to party faithful than to the larger public.

In the email, Roche lays the blame with Republicans who aren’t supporting Drazan, the Republican nominee for governor. “The Linn County Republican Party must put our differences aside for the cause and unite to support the candidates we have nominated,” he writes.

Not mentioned in the email: Betsy Johnson, the unaffiliated candidate running against Drazan and Democratic Party nominee Tina Kotek. But Johnson’s candidacy has been a destabilizing force for both parties—she’s blanketing the television airwaves with ads saying she’ll protect Oregonians from crime and stand up for abortion rights. One of the leading candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary—political consultant and columnist Bridget Barton—defected to Johnson this summer.

In conversation with WW, Roche said the number of Republicans supporting Johnson is insignificant. “It’s a very slim minority of Oregon Republicans who do not support Christine Drazan,” he said.

John Burke, Drazan’s communications director, says he’s unperturbed. “Our campaign continues to be encouraged by the overwhelming support Christine has received, especially from her fellow Republicans across the state,” Burke writes. “Multiple polls continue to show her leading both Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson as she’s won endorsements from groups like the Oregon Farm Bureau and countless individuals who care about Oregon’s direction. We are going to make history this November.”

Meanwhile, the national party has no qualms about Drazan: It gave her another $1 million check this week, bringing its spending on her campaign to $2.54 million.

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