Democrat Tina Kotek is poised to defeat her Republican opponent Christine Drazan.
Kotek’s narrow lead widened slightly overnight from about 15,000 votes to 30,000 votes, or 2% of the ballots tallied.
As of noon on Wednesday, neither campaign was ready to say the race is over, although The Oregonian called it for Kotek late Wednesday morning.
Kotek’s campaign declined to comment and Drazan’s campaign issued a statement suggesting she still holds out hope for a win.
“We are grateful to the many thousands of Oregonians who made their voices heard in this historic election,” the Drazan campaign said slightly after midday Wednesday. “We continue to monitor returns with the expectation that this race will tighten. We hope to release an additional statement later today.”
But the trend is certainly in Kotek’s favor.
Elections officials have counted about 1.5 million votes. That is about half of the number mailed to voters. Although the new law allowing ballots to be postmarked as late as 8 pm on Election Day makes the eventual number of ballots returned hard to predict, history suggests there are probably another 500,000 ballots to be counted. A disproportionate chunk of those ballots are in the state’s two most populous counties: Multnomah County, where votes are breaking 70% for Kotek to 20% for Drazan, and Washington County, where they are breaking 55% to 36% in Kotek’s favor.
The wild card in the race, the candidacy of the unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, appears to have taken votes from Kotek but not enough to tilt the outcome in Drazan’s favor. Here’s the math on that: Democrats have a 9.5% voter registration advantage. Johnson’s share of the vote as of noon is 8.8%, and Kotek is ahead of Drazan by 2%. It would appear from those numbers that Johnson’s presence in the race accounts for Kotek’s underperformance, i.e., Johnson attracted votes from Democrats more than Republicans.
In a statement on election night, Johnson said the takeaway from her campaign should be that voters are unwilling to accept the status quo.
“We sent a message that the majority of Oregonians, across party lines and no party at all, want a big change in our state,” Johnson said.