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.

EMBRACED: Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan hugs a supporter at the Washington County Republican Party’s annual Reagan Dinner. (Tim Trautmann)

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.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.