Kotek claims victory in race for Oregon governor
Democrat Tina Kotek has claimed victory in a close race against Republican Christine Drazan for Oregon governor.
Kotek went ahead with an announcement Wednesday night, almost 24 hours after Tuesday's election deadline.
Ballots were still being tallied. As of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, with 1.6 million votes counted, Kotek maintained a lead of 46.7% to 43.8% over Drazan.
The Oregonian/Oregon Live and Oregon Public Broadcasting made the call on the race as of noon Wednesday.
Kotek said this in a statement:
"Oregon faces major challenges, and I look forward to getting to work to solve them.
"I promise to be a governor for all of Oregon. I will start by working tirelessly to deliver results on issues of shared concern across our state: housing and homelessness, access to mental health and addiction treatment, helping our students succeed, and supporting small businesses.
"I ask Oregonians — no matter who you voted for in this election — to believe in our state, to stay engaged, and to help figure out solutions together.
"I am honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve Oregon, and I will strive every day to be a force for positive change in our state."
Nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, with just under 9%, conceded Tuesday night.
But Drazan's campaign said earlier Wednesday it was not conceding.
"We are grateful to the many thousands of Oregonians who made their voices heard in this historic election," her campaign said in a statement just after noon. "We continue to monitor returns with the expectation that this race will tighten. We hope to release an additional statement later today."
No follow-up statement was issued.
Some national groups have congratulated Kotek as one of two lesbians to win governorships; the other is Maura Healey in Massachusetts.
Most of the uncounted ballots were in Multnomah County, where Kotek was winning with 72% to Drazan's 20%, and in Clackamas County, where Drazan was winning, but by 47% to 43% over Kotek. Figures were as of Wednesday night. Kotek lives in Portland, Drazan in Canby. Clackamas County has sided with Democrats for president in recent years, but has gone for a Republican in many down-ballot races.
Oregon has 3 million registered voters. A statewide return rate of 70% or better is typical for a non-presidential election year. In 2018, it was 67.8%; in 2014, 70.9%.
Oregon's race for governor was the nation's first with three prominent women. There were four other states where a Democratic woman faced a Republican woman, but in three of them, the incumbent won. Arizona, which has an open seat, had not yet been called.
All were seeking to succeed Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who will have served nearly two full terms when she leaves office Jan. 9, minus the 38 days John Kitzhaber completed in his fourth term before he resigned amid an ethics scandal in February 2015.
Oregon would be only the third state where a woman has succeeded a woman as governor. The others are Arizona and New Mexico.
Democrats have been elected Oregon governor since the 1982 re-election of Republican Vic Atiyeh. That is the longest streak for either major party for that office in Oregon history. Most of those 10 previous elections were relatively close, except in 1998, when Kitzhaber defeated Republican Bill Sizemore, 63% to 30%.
Kotek appeared poised to continue that streak, though narrowly.
Kotek, a former House speaker from Portland, won where Democrats usually win statewide these days. That area consists of Multnomah, Washington and Hood River counties, Lane and Benton counties — home to the University of Oregon and Oregon State University — and Clatsop and Lincoln counties on the coast.
Drazan, a former House minority leader from Canby, won everywhere else: Mid-Willamette Valley, Southern, Central and Eastern Oregon. (In Deschutes County, however, Drazan was running at 46.3%, Kotek at 42.5%.)
Kotek thanked supporters but did not claim victory in a brief appearance Tuesday night:
"For now, I want to say thank you. This campaign was powered by hard-working people who want to build a better future for Oregon. I'm so grateful for our amazing coalition of supporters. Their dedication and hard work made all the difference in the world."
Johnson concedes early
Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic legislator from Scappoose, conceded earlier Tuesday. She drew about 9% statewide in her bid to become only the second Oregon governor not affiliated with a party. Her best showings were in the counties she represented in the Legislature — 23% in Clatsop County, 21.4% in Columbia County — but she still lost to Kotek in Clatsop County and to Drazan in Columbia County.
She told supporters gathered at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in St. Helens, in remarks reported by Portland television station KOIN, a news partner of Pamplin Media Group:
"I'll begin by stating the obvious. It's more fun to win than to lose, but when I decided to run for governor without any party affiliation, to run as an Oregonian, not as a D or an R, I knew the odds were very long and I didn't care.
"Over the last 30 years, I've been on the ballot 16 times. My record was a perfect 16 until now and while that winning record is now broken, I have absolutely no regrets and make no apologies for joining this fight for Oregon."
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