Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson’s Big Fundraiser Begins Shaping 2022 Governor’s Race


When former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof announced he was running for governor of Oregon, he did so while wearing a Columbia Sportswear jacket.

To some, it was a sign that he hoped to woo the state’s business community in a way that Democrats who have controlled the state for decades have not always done.

But it was State Senator Betsy Johnson who spoke at the funeral of Columbia Sportswear CEO Gert Boyle.

And it was Johnson who received a check for $ 100,000 from the current CEO of the sportswear company last month.

Johnson, a longtime Democratic lawmaker running as an unaffiliated candidate, has raised more than $ 2 million in her bid to become Oregon’s next governor, according to new campaign finance reports.

State Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Astoria, holds up a wooden goblet depicting the State House during a Timber Unity rally outside the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Oregon on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Johnson opposes the cap and- commercial bill.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Her donation list reads like a who’s who of wealthy Oregon families; $ 250,000 from the Pope Group, $ 125,000 from Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle (this donation of $ 100,000 and an in-kind donation of $ 25,000) and money from the shipping company Sause Bros.

When Jordan Schnitzer, the philanthropist and real estate developer, wanted to turn Wapato Prison into a homeless shelter, Johnson helped secure the money to make it a reality. His real estate company gave him $ 100,000 for his campaign earlier this month.

Over the years, Johnson has cultivated strong relationships statewide. She has lived in Scapoose and has represented the North Coast in the Legislature since 2001. Most recently, Johnson has served in the leadership role as one of the Legislative Assembly’s senior budget drafters.

All of this translated into a huge financial advantage for Johnson at the start, especially since, unlike the other candidates, she won’t have to spend a lot of money in the primaries. Some believe his strong early fundraising could also help shape the race; such a large figure so soon after her candidacy was announced could discourage viable Republican candidates – such as Republican House leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, – from entering the race.

“Democrats shouldn’t take for granted the Democratic control they’ve had for 30 years,” said Rebecca Tweed, a Republican campaign strategist, who is not currently working with any candidate for governor. “And Republicans need to recognize that they need to create a more credible base for a credible candidate to ever be competitive, which they haven’t done this round yet.”

The road to victory for a third candidate is not considered easy. Only once in the state’s history has Oregon elected an independent governor. It was at the height of the depression and Julius Meier, a man of great notoriety, being of the Meier and Frank family, took office in 1931.

Johnson must collect approximately 23,750 valid signatures, or 1% of the statewide vote in the 2020 general election in order to appear on the November 2022 ballot.

But even Johnson’s smallest donors are a nod to the relationships she has established with well-known Oregonians and their bipartisan nature; Antoinette Hatfield, wife of U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield donated, Mike Bonetto, a Democrat who worked for former Governor John Kitzhaber donated to his campaign, as did Senator Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, a Senator long-standing state.

Kristof, who presents himself as a Democrat, has also raised a significant sum: more than a million dollars in less than a month. But some of her most notable donations come from outside donors, including a $ 50,000 contribution from philanthropist Melinda French Gates and $ 10,000 from the Angelina Jolie Family Trust. Kristof also received a vote of support of $ 5,000 from former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

Perhaps one of Kristof’s biggest challenges is proving he meets the state’s three-year residency requirements to run for governor. Kristof voted in New York City in November 2020. He registered to vote in Oregon, Yamhill County on December 28, 2020. After Kristof officially submits his candidacy, the Secretary of State’s office will confirm whether he meets the constitutional conditions to run.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, considered a Democratic fundraiser, follows both Johnson and Kristof in the fundraiser. She reports having raised approximately $ 450,000. But that could change quickly, as she is widely regarded as the favorite among some of Oregon’s public sector employee unions.

What is clear: This governor’s race is expected to break the previously most expensive campaign. This is the more than $ 37 million raised between Governor Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler in 2018.

The other big question on people’s minds is whether Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who has donated over $ 2 million to Buehler, will put any money into the race.

As one political insider put it, “Usually you wait for Phil Knight to come see you.”


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