Betsy Johnson's independent candidacy for governor flexed its fundraising muscle on Thursday, Nov. 18, filing a state report that it has $2.3 million on hand for the 2022 race.
Johnson, a Scappoose Democratic who has spent more than two decades as a lawmaker in Salem, announced Oct. 14 that she would forego the political party primaries and run as a non-affiliated candidate. She will have to submit nearly 25,000 signatures next summer to get on the November ballot.
The move sets up a rare three-way race between the winner of the Democratic and Republican party primaries in May.
Johnson is the daughter of the late Samuel Johnson, a long-time Republican House member from Central Oregon and later Redmond mayor. Her campaign finance report included a number of $100,000 and $50,000 contributions from businesses interests. Johnson's campaign underlined the cross-party support in the filing. Democrats include Mike Bonetto, the ex-chief of staff to Gov. John Kitzhaber, and Cameron Smith, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state. Republicans include Antoinette Hatfield, wife of former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Mark Hatfield, former Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey and former Portland-area state Rep. Jeff Helfrich.
"I'm grateful to everyone from across party lines and across Oregon for helping our independent campaign get off to a strong start," Johnson said in a statement. "I only wish I had more time return calls — we'd have even more in the account!"
Wide open race
Johnson is taking a rare route to the governor's office — gathering signatures to qualify on the ballot as an independent. Johnson's campaign finance filing with the secretary of state is her first since Oct. 10.
The race is already attracting significant money for candidates. Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who lives in Yamhill County, has raised $1,235,201 since announcing in October that he would run as a Democrat for governor. He's spent $189,933 and has $1,042,352 in cash.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, announced a run for governor just before Labor Day. As of Nov. 15, she has raised $440,442. Spent $56,354 and has $475,206 cash on hand. On Sept. 1, Kotek revised her campaign finance committee from a House re-election fund to a run for governor. Her account reflects activity through Nov. 16.
Treasurer Tobias Read is seeking the governor's office. His campaign reports raising $661,018, while spending $229,295. He has $500,876 in cash. His account reflects activity through Nov. 8. He amended his campaign finance filing to a run for governor on Sept. 27.
Prior to Nov. 18, Johnson had not reported campaign fundraising and spending since Oct. 10, soon after she announced plans to mount an independent bid for governor.
At that time, the secretary of state's website showed Johnson with $521,605 in available cash, the bulk coming from $524,403 she rolled over from her state senate campaign finance committee. For 2021, Johnson had raised $65,850 and spent $68,869.
Johnson filed a finance reporting amendment on Oct. 10, switching the target for future fundraising from re-election to Senate District 18 to the governor's race. The committee was renamed as "Run, Betsy, Run."
'Move to the middle'
Johnson's early campaign finance report showed cracks in the two-party system, with Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, giving her campaign $1,000. As first reported Nov. 17 by Willamette Week, Beyer won a seat in the House in 1990. Beyer has also contributed $5,000 to Treasurer Tobias Read's campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Among Republicans, 2016 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bud Pierce of Salem is the top fundraiser. He has taken in $752,939 — with a significant percentage coming from his own funds. He's spent $583,186.
Johnson, a member of the Oregon Legislature since 2001, said earlier that she wanted to be a centrist option between the extremes of a "left-wing liberal" and a "right-wing Trump apologist."
"Oregonians are ready to move to the middle where sensible solutions are found," Johnson said.
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