Tina Kotek could become the nation’s first out lesbian governor after winning Oregon’s Democratic gubernatorial primary last night.
Kotek won 57.4 percent of the vote and will likely face Republican candidate Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson in a three-way race in November.
“I am deeply honored that Democratic voters across Oregon trust me to be their nominee,” Kotek said in a statement after her Tuesday night victory. “There is so much at stake: from protecting abortion access to defending our environment to standing up for working Oregonians who are still recovering from the pandemic. With so much on the line, Oregonians deserve someone who will fight for their interests.”
“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state. And this will be an election unlike any of us have ever seen,” she added.
Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor in 35 years, but Kotek may still face a tough race in November. The state’s current Democratic governor, bisexual Kate Brown, has historically low approval ratings. Brown is unable to run for re-election due to term limits.
Kotek’s opponents have tried to paint her as “more Kate Brown than Kate Brown” as the former governor faces criticism for increased homelessness, crime rates, and housing prices across the state as well as a dysfunctional unemployment system that left thousands waiting for payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Kotek’s progressive record could win over the Democratic-leaning state. During her 16 years serving in the state house, Kotek helped raise Oregon’s minimum wage, enact a new business tax to raise about $1 billion annually for schools, pass new gun controls, lower carbon emissions and protect abortion access. She also criticized the state’s lack of police and ongoing delays in addressing homelessness, striking a contrast between her and Brown.
Kotek’s bid for governor could be spoiled by Johnson, Kotek’s unaffiliated opponent who is a former Democratic senator. Johnson disaffiliated from the Democratic Party last year to launch her nonaffiliated campaign for governor. But it remains to be seen how much Johnson appeals to Democrats, especially since she sometimes sided with Republicans against progressive legislation.