House Speaker Tina Kotek made it official Wednesday, Sept. 1: She's running for governor.
Kotek is a Democrat who has been in the House from District 44 in North and Northeast Portland since 2007, including a record nine years as the House's presiding officer since 2013. Before then, she was an advocate for the Oregon Food Bank and Children First for Oregon.
She said in a statement that her experience would help her guide Oregon through its immediate challenges to ultimate goals of alleviating poverty and eradicating injustice.
"Oregonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind," she said. "We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state.
"I am running for governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon."
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is barred by term limits from seeking re-election in 2022. She will have served nearly eight years when her second term ends Jan. 9, 2023, minus the 38 days in John Kitzhaber's fourth term when he resigned under pressure and Brown, as secretary of state, succeeded him in 2015.
Official filing opens Sept. 9 and closes March 8.
While Kotek is the most prominent Democrat to announce for governor, she isn't expected to be the last for a contest that has no incumbent running for only the third time in the past two decades. Ted Kulongoski succeeded Kitzhaber in 2002 — 20 years after Kulongoski lost his first bid for governor — and Kitzhaber won a third-term comeback in 2010.
Three other Democrats have set up campaign committees: Michael David of Ashland, who bills himself the "Jewish Messiah," Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla of Dayton, and Patrick Starnes of Brownsville, the 2018 Independent Party nominee for governor who dropped out and endorsed Brown.
About 53% of Oregon's 1 million registered Democrats live in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.
Eleven Republicans also have set up campaign committees, among them William "Bud" Pierce, a Salem physician who was the party's 2016 nominee; Bridget Barton of Lake Oswego, a self-employed editor and publisher; Jessica Gomez, a Medford businesswoman who lost bids for the Oregon Senate and Medford City Council, and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam.
Direct from House
Kotek, who turns 55 at the end of September, and her wife Aimee Wilson live in North Portland. She made a losing primary bid in 2004 from an adjoining district before she won in 2006 in District 44.
She would be the first sitting representative to move directly to the governorship since John Hall of Portland was thrust into the job in October 1947 after a plane crash that killed the governor, the secretary of state and the Oregon Senate president. Hall, as House speaker, was next in line in succession, but he lost in the 1948 Republican primary to Douglas McKay, who went on to win.
Starting with Mark Hatfield in 1958, six of Oregon's nine most recent governors have served in the House. But all six, including Brown, were elected either to the Senate or statewide office before they became governor.
This would be Kotek's first campaign statewide.
"Together, we have done great things by working for justice, putting people first, and never forgetting our love of the state we share," she said. "I will bring people together for a campaign that will inspire all Oregonians to reach for a better future for everyone."
Kotek was Democratic leader from the end of the 2011 regular session, when the House was tied 30-30, until Democrats gained four seats in 2012 and she became speaker. The Democratic majority grew by one in 2014 and by three more in 2018 before the net loss of one seat in 2020 to its current number of 37 out of 60.
Shaping the agenda
She has had a hand in almost every major piece of legislation during her decade as speaker. She specified several in her candidacy statement:
• Responding to immediate crises including pandemic relief, wildfire recovery, preventing evictions of tenants, homeowners and small businesses, making historic investments to increase affordable housing, passing a first-in-the-nation statewide rent stabilization law, and personally advocating for more equitable policing and a fairer criminal justice system.
• Making real progress for working people, including raising Oregon's minimum wage, strengthening retirement security, expanding earned sick leave, passing the strongest equal pay law in the country, making paid family medical leave insurance available for Oregon's workers, responding to the state's child care crisis, and leading the way for a historic investment in education by passing the Student Success Act to boost pre-K-12 education funding by $1 billion each year.
• Ensuring access to quality health care including defending access to affordable health care for Oregonians who rely on Medicaid and expanding access to reproductive health care for all Oregonians.
• Taking on climate change, including eliminating the state's reliance on coal and setting Oregon on the path to 100% clean electricity, passing historic investments in public transit and zero-emission vehicles, and fighting for cleaner diesel engines and the state's low-carbon fuel standard.
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