Sen. Betsy Johnson Is Running for Oregon Governor as an Unaffiliated Candidate

“Oregonians deserve better than the excesses and nonsense of the extreme left and the radical right,” Johnson wrote in an email today.

Oregon state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) has told supporters she’s running for governor as an independent.

“Oregonians deserve better than the excesses and nonsense of the extreme left and the radical right,” she wrote in an email today obtained by WW. “Oregonians are ready to move to the middle where sensible solutions are found.

“That’s why I have decided to run for governor as an independent leader unaffiliated with any party and loyal only to the people of Oregon.”

Johnson, 70, long the most conservative elected member of her party, will attempt to carve out a third lane in what’s already a crowded field of contenders for governor.

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and Treasurer Tobias Read have entered the Democratic primary, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof appears days away from making a formal announcement. Republican contenders include Salem oncologist Dr. Bud Pierce, Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam and the political consultant Bridget Barton, with GOP power brokers trying to recruit House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby).

In the Oregon Senate, Johnson has long served as a brake on her party’s more progressive ambitions—playing a role similar to that of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on the national stage—until Democrats achieved a supermajority in 2020 and blunted her de facto veto on legislation. Since then, Johnson has aligned openly with Oregon voters who feel alienated from the Portland-controlled party, even appearing at rallies of the controversial logging and trucking group Timber Unity.

In her announcement email, Johnson said it was the Democratic Party that had changed, not her.

“The decision to run independent of any party, by law, requires me to give up my Democratic Party registration by next spring,” she wrote. “Rest assured, my bedrock values will not change. I was raised in a moderate Republican family and became a Democrat because the Republican Party had moved too far to the right. For 20 years, I’ve been an independent-minded, pro-choice, pro-jobs Democrat proudly serving the people of Northwest Oregon. This is who I am.”

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 through our Give!Guide Fundraising page.