Oregon governor’s race could be a toss-up, experts say

Author: Pat Dooris, David Mann (KGW)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — With less than two months until Election Day, the race for Oregon governor is looking closer than ever. Millions of dollars are pouring into the three-way race between Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson. The sheer amount of money alone is likely to make history — not to mention that all three candidates are women.

When the race first started, a nonpartisan publication called The Cook Political Report said the race appeared to be leaning Democrat. At the end of July, it labeled the race as “competitive.” Then last Friday, it said the race was looking like a toss-up.

Jessica Taylor from The Cook Political Report said the reasoning for the shift had to do with polling and conversations with insiders.

“I think it’s combined with the fact Republicans do have a strong candidate in Christine Drazan, who is raising money. And then you have the three-way race. There’s a frustration among Democrats about Betsy Johnson’s presence in there because they feel like she takes votes away from both of them but could potentially take more votes away from Tina Kotek,” said Taylor.

For both Drazan and Kotek, a lot of money has started flowing in from national campaign committees.

The Oregon Capital Insider reported that the Republican Governors Association gave Drazan $1 million last Monday and the Democratic Governors Association gave Kotek $1.2 million on Thursday.

Jim Moore, a politics professor at Pacific University, said he considers the race unique in part because of Johnson.

“National money is pouring in, which is great. We’ve been expecting it to happen, but within the last week to 10 days we’ve seen millions of dollars of national money coming in from national governors associations and things like that. And so that means that all sides think they can win — and Betsy Johnson, who doesn’t have a national governors association, is just raising money hand over fist to keep up,” Moore said.

Normally, a third candidate only gets a small percentage of the vote. In this race, Johnson is a serious contender.

“Usually what happens when there is an unaffiliated or independent candidate is they may get 5 to 10% of the vote, so they can be a spoiler. The latest polling we have is now about four or five weeks ago. It shows that Betsy Johnson is a true contender, 20 to 25% percent of the vote. So you just do the math on that, it looks like the two main candidates, the Republican and the Democrat, are kind of at 30%. Betsy Johnson’s right behind them at 25% or 20%, so it’s anybody’s race,” added Moore.

Political strategist Rebecca Tweed is currently running several Republican campaigns. Although she’s not involved in the governor’s race, she knows what it’s like behind the scenes of a campaign.

“We’re right at a point in the campaign cycle where things are going to get pretty bumpy. People will report polling numbers that are all over the place. Ads will be all over the place. Candidates will start disappearing so they can just focus on the ‘do no harm’ part of the campaign,” said Tweed.

By that, she means staying out of situations that could make a negative headline.

Tweed said the next couple months of campaigning will be very strategic and disciplined, and that campaigns are subject to change every single day.

“Every single day there’s a new ad, there’s a new donation, there’s a new message. We’re not even to October yet, when we all know the October surprise will come. I think we’ll have a few of those,” she said.

In terms of the number of registered voters in Oregon by party, non-affiliated has the most with 1,017,662, followed by Democrats with roughly 1,011,000 and Republicans with 729,535.

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