The leading candidates for Oregon Primaries. The Oregon Primaries will take place May 17.
Illustration by Quintana Jones

Many young voters worry that their vote will not make a difference, or that they are not properly informed. In regards to the former, it is noteworthy that in the 2008 election, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 52% of the counted votes, according to the Brookings Institute. And as for being informed, it is overwhelming. There are 38 total candidates running to replace Kate Brown as Governor of Oregon; these are the four main contenders.

Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican Governor since Victor Atiyeh, who served from 1979 to 1987. This year, Betsy Johnson, who’s running as an Independent, has caused some distress among the Democratic Party as she could take votes from the more moderate voters that have previously aided the trend of Democratic success. This increasing tension is the result of Democratic leadership facing a pandemic and all the repercussions on the economy, schools, housing and of course, public health. This year especially, Republicans are making a push to get a gubernatorial candidate elected for the first time since 1982, as many Oregonians feel the last few years have been mishandled.

The Oregon Primaries will take place May 17, 2022. In order to vote online or in person for the primaries, one must be registered by April 26. This condensed report of important points is intended to help inform those becoming first time voters, or perhaps those discussing Oregon’s future with the registered voters in their lives. To register to vote, visit:

Christine Drazan for the Republican Candidacy 

Growing up in the forestry community with her family in rural Oregon, Drazan, a mother of three and a 4th generation Oregonian, believes that under the Democratic governors of Oregon for the past decade, “[Oregonian Democratic control] hasn’t resulted in the utopia we were promised,” she said in an interview with KOIN.

Priorities (from campaign website)

Lower taxes are Drazan’s consistent priority.

If elected to office, Drazan’s first order of business would be to immediately repeal Governor Brown’s Covid-19 mandate for vaccines, mask mandates in the remaining areas such as transit and healthcare settings, and social distancing protocols.

Oregon before the Capitol’s interests, in regards to federal legislature v.s state agendas. 

Drazan would work towards ending voter fraud and securing elections by making it “easier to vote but harder to cheat.” Drazan has acknowledged President Joe Biden’s victory as legitimate.

Addressing homelessness is one of the few things the candidates agree needs to happen. How to do this is a different story. Drazan’s office would utilize nonprofits, faith groups, and cracking down on crime.


Minority Leader in the Oregon House of Representatives (2019-2021)

Member of Clackamas County School District budget committee

Chief of Staff to the Republican Speaker of the House in the 90s

Notable endorsements

Oregon Chiefs of Police Association

Oregon Right to Life

Randy Lauer- Mayor of Troutdale

Clackamas County Farm Bureau


On her campaign website, Drazan wrote that “when Kate Brown and Tina Kotek cheered while Portland burned, Christine condemned the violent rioters and defended law enforcement.”

Former Democratic Representative Diego Hernandez faced sexual harassment charges surrounding both verbal and physical assault by seven women in May of 2020. Drazan commented on the situation in a June 2021 interview with KATU News, saying that “victims need to know that they can come forward and that the process will result in change and that did not happen in this case.” 

Tina Kotek for the Democratic Candidacy

As the first openly lesbian Speaker of House in the country, Tina Kotek moved to Oregon from the East Coast in the 1980s after her parents, first generation Americans, settled there. It was here that she attended the University of Oregon through the Pell Grant. Her extensive time in the Oregon State House resulted in a long list of legislation praised by liberal leaning Democrats. She and her wife Amy, who is a social worker, live in NE Portland. 

Priorities (from campaign website)

Kotek believes the lack of Housing for the Homeless is a humanitarian crisis. Her number one priority is creating access to affordable housing, and providing services for addiction and mental health.

Climate and environmental protection by transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards zero emission vehicles. Part of Kotek’s vision for climate justice is creating ways to help communities on the front lines of natural disasters and increase infrastructure that will build resiliency for Oregon.

Creating economic opportunity in the post-pandemic Oregon through family wages and professional development for trades jobs and utilization of community colleges. 

Racial justice achieved through transformative training for law enforcement, and ensuring equitable economic development for BIPOC communities.

Education and Child Care with improving graduation rates to 90% for all student groups, as well as effective child care to families of all economic status.

Protection of reproductive rights for people with uteruses, and addressing the mortality rates of women of color.


Early career at Oregon Food Bank

Speaker of the House (2013-2022) 

House of Representatives (2006-2022)

Notable endorsements

Planned Parenthood

Building Power for Communities of Color

NAYA Action Fund

Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Val Hoyle, Oregon Labor Commissioner


According to OPB, in a deal regarding the support of the next Speaker of the House for Janelle Bynum, Bynum said that Kotek wasn’t holding up her end of the deal, one that Bynum claimed had more benefits for Kotek than for Bynum.

In a conversation with Sara Gelser, one of the women who accused former state Sen. Jeff Kruse of sexual assault, Kotek reportedly said that her allegations were complicated by Gelser’s “likeablity,” according to Willamette Week. Kotek later apologized for the impact of this statement.

Tobias Read for the Democratic Candidacy

Read was born in Idaho and raised in Montana before attending Willamette University in Oregon. A father of two kids in public schools, Tobias Read says he will “measure our progress by how the children of Oregon are doing.” During his time as Treasurer, Read focused on Oregon Saves, a program that made retirement possible for many workers. 

Priorities (from campaign website)

Reducing rising rates of gun violence by banning untraceable firearms, buying back guns, and holding parents accountable that don’t properly store weapons.

Ensuring effective K-12 education and possibility of higher education by issuing baby bonds, initiating early literacy programs, and special education support.

High Quality Affordable Childcare for all Oregon families. 

Creation of “safe, clean shelters and transitional housing” while long term affordable housing units are being built to get our houseless community off the streets.

“Dramatically increase Oregon’s investment in renewable energy” and placing environmentalists on boards of large energy corporations.


Oregon Treasurer (2012-2022)

Chief Sponsor of Oregon Retirement Fund (2015)

Early career at Nike Corporation

Notable endorsements

Barbra Roberts- former Oregon Governor

James Manning- Oregon State Senator

Joe Buck- Lake Oswego Mayor

Michael Alexander- Former President of Urban League of Portland


“The guy is a wet noodle,” according to Steve Pedery, conservation director of the nonprofit Oregon Wild, in an interview with Willamette Week. Pedery and Oregon Wild have suggested turning Oregon’s Elliott State Forest, while Read has voted to sell, into a state conservation area. While there are no specific incidents that mark Read as having enemies or controversies, his opponents say he is ineffective. “If you’re drawing up a list of the most effective Oregon politicians, no one would put Tobias Read in the top five,” added Pedery.

Betsy Johnson as an Independent Candidate

Running unaffiliated with any party, Betsy Johnson won’t be on any primary ballot, but will be up for general election after gathering 25,000 signatures in summer 2021. As a licensed commercial pilot for airplanes and helicopters, she founded her own aviation business called Transwestern Helicopters. She formerly belonged to the Democratic party but describes herself as fiscally conservative.

Priorities (from campaign announcement video)

Supporting Law Enforcement in dealing with the homeless “public safety crisis,” as well as providing more funding and resources.

Repealing COVID-19 mandates set by Kate Brown, in favor of optional masks and vaccines. 

Reproductive Rights remain protected, primarily abortion.

Working to combat climate change without raising taxes or imposing fines.


Oregon Senate Member (2007-2021)

Manager of Aeronautics Division of the Oregon State Department of Transportation (1993-1998)

Oregon House of Representatives (2001-2005)

Board of Oregon Health and Science University Foundation

Former Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Notable endorsements

State Sen. Lee Beyer (D)

Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett (D)

Former State Sen. & Chair of Oregon Democratic Party Margaret Carter (D)

State Sen. Brian Boquist (former R now I)

Astoria Mayor Willis Vandusen (R)

Former State Rep. and 2018 GOP Governor nominee Knute Buehler (former R now I)

Former State Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts (R)


Despite previously being labeled a climate denier, Johnson “believe[s] climate change is real. I believe some of the solutions put forth by the legislature are not the right solutions to the right problems.”

In 2007 former Governor John Kitzhaber sent an Op-ed to the Oregonian in support of Johnson, and some questioned their decision not to print it.

There’s a big question mark around the endorsements and funding of Johnson, as it hasn’t been made public by the campaign. Some donors with the Republican Party are choosing to back Johnson as an alternative to the Democratic candidates, but it’s unclear to what extent this is happening as a result of the lack of transparency.

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