Phil Knight Switches Candidates, Contributes $1 Million to Republican Christine Drazan

The Nike co-founder had previously donated $3.75 million to Betsy Johnson, the unaffiliated candidate.

Nike co-founder Phil Knight changed tactics in the governor’s race today, contributing $1 million to Republican Christine Drazan, whom recent polling has shown with a slight lead over Democrat Tina Kotek.

Results of an independent poll conducted by Emerson College that were released Oct. 4 showed Drazan with a 2-point lead over Kotek, with the unaffiliated candidate Johnson a distant third at 19%.

That poll is in line with one The Oregonian reported last week showing Drazan with 32% and Kotek with 31%. Given that the poll had a 4% margin of error, DHM pollster John Horvick told the daily the race is a “toss-up.” Johnson, to whom Knight has donated $3.75 million, had 18% in the DHM poll.

WW reported Tuesday that Knight gave Johnson a $2 million check. But that transaction, although it only posted in the state’s campaign finance reporting system Oct. 3, actually occurred Sept. 1. That’s a long time ago in a race this competitive—and today’s contribution suggests Knight is shifting his focus to Drazan, whom he had not previously supported.

His check comes on the heels of a $250,000 check Associated General Contractors gave Drazan on Oct. 3 and a $1.5 million check the Republican Governors Association gave her Oct. 5.

Kotek has also reported a flurry of large donations in the past few days: $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association; $500,000 from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters; $330,000 from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters; and, $300,000 from the American Federation of Teachers.

Kotek has raised about $15 million since the race began and has $2.3 million left to spend. Drazan has raised about $13 million and has $3.17 million remaining.

Read our cover story on Drazan’s ascent here.