In Surprise Choice, Former Gov. Barbara Roberts Endorses Tobias Read for Governor

Oregon’s first female governor has been a strong supporter of women candidates but passes over Tina Kotek.

Gov. Barbara Roberts in 1990. (Steven Lane)

Former Gov. Barbara Roberts today announced that she’s giving her endorsement in the May Democratic primary to State Treasurer Tobias Read.

“Oregon needs a governor with a statewide record of tackling tough issues, delivering results, and fighting for Oregonians living in every corner of this great state,” Roberts said in a statement. “Tobias has shown he can bring people together, and he will continue his work to build economic opportunity and a better future for all. That’s why I’m supporting Tobias. Oregon needs his proven and steady leadership.”

Roberts, a Democrat from Portland and the first woman to be elected governor, served from 1991 to 1995. She is a revered figure in Democratic circles, and candidates eagerly seek her blessing when running for office. Roberts has been something of a mentor to Gov. Kate Brown, who, like Roberts, served as secretary of state before entering Mahonia Hall.

Given that former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) has swept many of the key Democratic endorsements so far—Service Employees International Union, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, Planned Parenthood PAC, and many others—it’s somewhat surprising and a big boost for Read that Roberts is on his side.

The former five-term Oregon House member from Beaverton has stood to benefit from the Oregon Supreme Court’s Feb. 17 affirmation of the disqualification of first-time candidate Nicholas Kristof from the May ballot. Read is now the principal alternative to Kotek, who resigned from the Legislature last month as the longest-serving House speaker in Oregon history.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of Gov. Roberts,” Read said. “I am inspired by her lifelong commitment to Oregon and am grateful to have her counsel and support in this race.”

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