Endorsements Hint at Shape of Oregon Governor’s Race

In particular, recent choices indicate the approach Betsy Johnson will take toward public employee unions.

Although election season is now in the political doldrums where campaigns go mostly dark until Labor Day, each of the three major candidates for Oregon governor made news this week.

Former state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), who is now unaffiliated with any party, reported a $100,000 contribution from Sid DeBoer, founder and chairman of Lithia Motors.

GOP nominee Christine Drazan reported a $250,000 contribution from the Republican Governors Association, a further sign that national money thinks a Republican could win the governor’s race for the first time in 40 years. The RGA has now given Drazan a total of $569,000.

Former House Speaker Tina Kotek, the Democratic nominee, racked up endorsements from Everytown for Gun Safety, a Michael Bloomberg-funded group, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

AFSCME did not endorse in the Democratic primary, and many of its members are known to be open to Johnson—but Johnson’s campaign says she didn’t pursue the endorsement, a decision that shows she plans to run against public employee unions rather than try to pick off members who might be wary of Kotek.

“AFSCME is part of the public sector ruling coalition that is responsible for Kate Brown and Tina Kotek,” says Johnson’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Sitton. “They and the teachers’ union bosses work for [Service Employees International Union], not their members.”

Oregon AFSCME President Fred Yungbluth says Johnson has “continuously attacked” the wages and benefits of public employees. “It’s disappointing to see this lack of respect for the people she’s running to represent,” he says.