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This Oregon Republican could win the governor’s race, latest polls show

If victorious, Christine Drazan will be the first Republican governor of Oregon in almost 40 years

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Republican nominee Christine Drazan speaks during the gubernatorial debate hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

Republican nominee Christine Drazan speaks during the gubernatorial debate hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association at Mount Hood Oregon Resort in Welches, Ore., Friday, July 29, 2022.

Jaime Valdez, Associated Press

With only six weeks to go before Election Day, polls show Republican gubernatorial nominee Christine Drazan is in a dead heat with the Democratic candidate as she tries to pull off an unlikely win in the race to lead Oregon. The November general election features Drazan, Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, and independent Betsy Johnson in one of the nation’s only all-women races, among serious contenders. 

The Oregonian published a new poll conducted over the weekend showing Drazan capturing 32% of likely Oregon voters’ support, while Kotek sits at 31% and Johnson has the support of 18% of voters. The poll found nearly 15% of Oregon voters remain undecided. 

Drazan’s statistical tie with Kotek shows there is a chance Oregonians could elect their first Republican governor since 1982. The women are familiar adversaries, after serving in the Oregon Legislature together over the past several years. Kotek served as the House Speaker in the Democrat-dominated Oregon Legislature, while Drazan led the Republican opposition as the minority leader.

The deeply blue state looks to be considering alternatives due to outgoing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s unpopularity among voters. Brown suffers from one of the highest disapproval ratings for governors in the country. This dissatisfaction might be causing problems for Kotek, who is a close ally of Brown. 

Beaver State voter discontent also explains support of the independent candidate, Johnson, who is likely siphoning Democratic voters from Kotek. Johnson’s centrist and well-funded campaign is a major reason the unique three-way race is so close. The longtime Democratic state senator turned independent has attracted big financial donations from backers, including from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who is by far her largest contributor after donating over $1.5 million to her campaign.

Other polls also show a close race, with Drazan usually a point or two ahead of Kotek. The race has repeatedly been reassessed throughout the year as polls have narrowed. In July, the Cook Political Report changed its rating from “Likely Democrat” to “Lean Democrat,” then earlier this month moved the rating to “Toss-up.” 

John Horvick, senior vice president of DHM Research, who conducted the most recent poll, told the Oregonian that the race is coming down to the wire. “Christine Drazan has a real opportunity to be the first Republican governor in nearly 40 years,” he said. “This is a toss-up race.”

The poll also indicated that voters with an opinion view Drazan positively. Of those responding, 18% have a very positive opinion of her, with Kotek at 13% and Johnson at 9%. A significant portion of the state electorate said they have no opinion of any of the candidates, indicating that there is still plenty of opportunity for all three to win over more voters.

Political fights within the state and the nation are giving voters pause, as they think about the direction they want their state to go in, according to Horvick. “The political environment is really challenging for Democrats. People are feeling bad about the direction of the state. The national political environment is difficult for Democrats,” Horvick told the Oregonian, adding that he thinks Kotek still has the edge if she can rally the Democratic base.

Drazan campaign spokesman John Burke released a statement earlier this month addressing the national spotlight on the narrowing race. “Christine Drazan continues to build momentum to flip Oregon’s gubernatorial seat,” he said. “Oregonians from all walks of life are stepping up and calling for change. ... Christine is ready to deliver for them.”