The race for the Governor’s seat in the “deep blue” state of Oregon has shifted from “likely Democrat” to “toss-up” according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report, a politics handicapper that continually boasts high-quality election forecasts.
The race features three candidates competing to take over the Governor’s mansion as incumbent Kate Brown, the current Democrat Governor, is term-limited by Oregon law.
Former Oregon State House Speaker Tina Kotek is the Democrat nominee while the Republican candidate is Christine Drazan, formerly Oregon’s House Minority Leader. Independent challenger Betsy Johnson is also in play, but lagging behind Kotek and Drazan.
The race is now expected to be razor-thin by Cook Political, but that wasn’t always the case, even as recently as June.
Initially, Oregonians seemed sure to vote in a Democrat governor once again, as they have for the past three and a half decades.
But a poll released in June changed everything, showing Republican Christine Drazan up one point on Kotek, leading Cook Political to switch its rating from “likely Democratic” to “lean Democratic.”
Cook Political says the polling is no phenomenon: “There’s a clear trend of both Kotek and Drazan pulling in the late 30s while Johnson has yet to poll higher than the mid-20s.”
Now, after more polling from Oregon showed Kotek’s approval rating floundering, Cook has changed its rating to “toss-up.”
Kotek is a progressive Democrat, inflicting her views on the state as Oregon’s House Speaker for nine years before resigning earlier this year to focus on her run for governor.
“After considerable reflection, I have decided to step down from the legislature, before the upcoming session,” Kotek tweeted in early January.
“Kotek is especially hammering Drazan on abortion, and believes, as we see nationwide, that the issue will work in her favor,” the Cook Political report noted, highlighting the Democrats’ shift to the abortion issue following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June.
However, Drazan has kept her rhetoric moderate throughout the campaign, seemingly mirroring Glenn Youngkin’s election strategy, giving the experienced legislator some wiggle room among independents.
Oregon hasn’t voted for a Republican Governor since 1982, when Dr. Victor Atiyeh, America’s first Arab American governor, won his re-election bid.