Democratic Oregon governor nominee Tina Kotek talks about ‘historic’ fall campaign

By Alex Hasenstab (OPB)
May 18, 2022 11:22 p.m.

It’s looking increasingly likely that three women will face off for Oregon’s highest office. Kotek says she’s the best choice in a year that has the U.S. Supreme Court about to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek won an easy victory in the Democratic primary for governor Tuesday.

Now comes the hard part: A general election campaign that will include a Republican, likely former House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, and an unaffiliated candidate, former longtime Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson.


Kotek spoke with OPB Think Out Loud host Dave Miller Wednesday about the issues she will focus on this fall. Here are highlights.

Candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor Tina Kotek, left, and her wife, Aimee Kotek Wilson, speak to supporters at an election night party at Revolution Hall on May 17, 2022, in Portland, Ore.

Candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor Tina Kotek, left, and her wife, Aimee Kotek Wilson, speak to supporters at an election night party at Revolution Hall on May 17, 2022, in Portland, Ore.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB

Dave Miller: Your campaign yesterday put out what seemed to be some enthusiasm-dampening statements, saying, among other things, ‘Go slow everybody, Tobias Read is a formidable opponent.’ Were you personally expecting a closer result?

Tina Kotek: I think we had a great shot of winning. And what that memo was about was just really explaining to folks that I have had to work hard to gain endorsements, gain support, raise the money and what we saw in last night’s results were people getting behind my campaign. They were looking for a proven leader who can get things done, and I’m excited and very thankful for all the voters who supported me in this campaign.

Miller: What do you think that Tobias Read brought to this race?


Kotek: I think Treasurer Read is a very thoughtful leader who cares about the state, just like I do, and we have very similar values. And I think we had a very good debate. That’s what you want to see in a primary. But now we have a nominee; I’m the nominee for November. And Democrats are going to be unified to win in November because there is so much at stake this year, and in this election, and that’s what we’re gonna be focused on.

Miller: After a longish career in Oregon politics, I’m just curious, what it means to you personally to be the Democratic nominee for governor?

Kotek: For me, it’s always been about solving problems and working with people. I am energized and excited about the possibility of doing this in a different role and being a governor who can be that coach, and cheerleader, and manager to make sure we can solve the problems that are facing our state. It’s humbling, and I’m excited about the opportunity.

Miller: What issues do you want to make the general election about? What do you want to be talking about?

Kotek: It’s about what we’re hearing from voters. They know there’s a lot at stake. The Supreme Court wants to take us back 50 years and restrict abortion access. That is a top-of-mind issues issue for Oregonians across the state, not just Democrats. I’m hearing about how we solve our homeless crisis, take on gun violence, climate change, making sure people have access to mental health and addiction services. Those are the issues that Oregonians are bringing up, and like I said, I’m a proven leader who can bring people together to solve problems. And I am always going to fight and stand with Oregonians to get things done... I’m going to stand up for our working families who are struggling to pay their bills right now. That’s what I do, that’s what I’ve been doing and I will continue to do that as our next governor.

Miller: This is going to be the first gubernatorial election in Oregon in recent memory with a serious, well-financed independent candidate [Betsy Johnson]. How do you plan to approach the general election with that specifically in mind?

Kotek: What’s exciting about this general election, is this could be historic if there are three women running to be the next governor. First of all, that’s exciting in and of itself, even if we don’t all agree on the issues. The way I won this primary is building a very large, diverse coalition of Oregonians who know me as a leader, know what I can get done. And that same coalition is going to be supporting me into the November election: the environmental community, the choice community, labor community, all the folks who know that we have to stand up and move our state forward. And I’ll have the money to compete, and I also have a lot of people power and grassroots support going into November.

Miller: The standard political thinking is: In a primary you try to attract your base, and in a general election you move a little bit more to the center. Do you think that’s still going to hold?

Kotek: I think what I’m hearing from Oregonians — and this is not just Democrats, I’ve talked to all kinds of people — they’re looking for people to solve problems and get things done. That’s why I’m in this work, why I’m running for governor. Our government should function at the highest level possible to make sure people have what they need. And there are challenges out there, and you just can’t talk about them you have to be able to solve problems and I have a solid track record of doing that, and I think that’s what’s going to resonate with voters in November.