During his second day in Portland Saturday, President Joe Biden stood in front of a couple of hundred people at the East Portland Community Center and highlighted the Democratic Party’s recent legislative achievements in health care.
His sentiment was congratulatory and joyous, missing any sign of the anxiety many Oregon Democratic leaders are feeling about the tight race for governor in a few weeks. Their hope was that Biden’s visit could help unite voters behind Democrat Tina Kotek; polls show she’s running neck-and-neck with Republican Christine Drazan, while unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson pulls votes to her side.
Biden’s speech at the community center highlighted health measures passed in the Inflation Reduction Act that he signed in August, calling attention to its prescription price reforms — a fitting theme for the first day of open enrollment for Medicare patients.
“This year the American people won, and for the first time, big pharma lost,” Biden said. “Now, when big pharma tries to raise drug prices faster than inflation, they’re going to have to write a check to Medicare to cover the difference.”
The president’s motorcade then left the community center to attend a fundraiser for Kotek. He stood by her side on stage at the private event, calling her “serious and consequential.”
“Oregon is viewed as a progressive state, and that’s why this race matters so much,” Biden said. “... Think about who you elect governor. Are they prepared for the state to be pro-choice?”
He pivoted to climate change, commending Kotek for her vision on ways to address it through state laws, then moved onto crime: “We should be funding police more, not less,” he said, while also calling for more social workers and psychiatrists.
Biden arrived Friday evening and attended a rally at a Portland union hall, where he spent some time making phone calls to Democratic voters. He departed on Air Force One around 4 p.m. Saturday, but only after making a surprise stop with Kotek at a Baskin Robbins on his motorcade’s trip back to the airport. (In 2014, Biden he made a well-documented trip to Salt & Straw in Northeast Portland. This time, Biden had a double dip chocolate chip waffle cone. White House pool reporters noted that Biden paid for Kotek’s ice cream but did not provide specifics on what she ordered.)
All told, the president spent about 22 hours in Oregon. Ballots in the Nov. 8 election, which along with the governor’s race also feature important campaigns for the U.S. House and Oregon Legislature, will hit the mail starting Wednesday.