Democrat Tina Kotek wins Oregon governor’s race

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Democrat Tina Kotek is projected to win the tight race for Oregon governor.

The former speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives defeated Republican Christine Drazan, a former state legislator, and Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state legislator who left the party and ran as an unaffiliated candidate.

Kotek will replace term-limited Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) after an uphill battle in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican governor in 40 years. With her win, Kotek is now one of two women — along with Maura Healey (D) of Massachusetts — to become the nation’s first openly lesbian governors.

During her nearly decade in the state legislature, Kotek played a key role in expanding access to abortion, raising Oregon’s minimum wage, investing $50 million in clean energy and passing legislation guaranteeing sick leave for all Oregon workers.

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Tina Kotek’s historic campaign meets Oregon at a crossroads

And while Kotek’s experience might once have made her gubernatorial bid easy, disagreements and bitterness lingering over Brown’s pandemic policies, the growing housing crisis and Portland’s intense racial justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have raised the stakes. state president Biden won by nearly 16 points in 2020.

Oregon Republicans attacked Democrats for not taking action against crime, and Kotek had a hard time distancing himself from the attack Democrats want to pay back on police. Meanwhile, Drazan campaigned on improving Oregon’s public school system, declaring a state of emergency on homelessness and repealing the 2020 drug decriminalization law, while increasing funding for police and prosecutors.

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Although the race was not called until Thursday night, Kotek announced his victory Wednesday, saying in a news release that he looks forward to working to fix Oregon’s problems.

She celebrated her victory again at a news conference Thursday in Portland, noting that she had spoken with Drazan and Johnson and said she would work to address the issues they fought over.

Kotek said in remarks Thursday that she is honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as Oregon’s next governor.

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“I’m asking my fellow Oregonians, regardless of who you voted for or even whether you voted at all, to believe in our state and our future,” she said. “Please be involved so we can all help solve the problems together.”

Kotek said she will focus on “three things first” when she takes office: declaring a state of emergency on the nation’s homeless crisis, expanding access to mental health and addiction treatment services and working to “overcome the divisions in our country.”

Anne Branigin and Camilla DeChalus contributed reporting.

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