'Tough' Betsy Johnson adds rural balance to state budget process

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - State Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose 

Betsy Johnson's campaign to run for governor in 2022 without any party affiliation flexed its fundraising muscle on Thursday, filing a state report that it has $2.3 million on hand for the 2022 race.

Johnson, a longtime Democratic lawmaker in Salem, announced Oct. 14 that she would forego the political party primaries and run as a non-affiliated candidate. She will have to submit nearly 25,000 signatures next summer to go directly onto the November ballot.

The move sets up a rare three-way race between Johnson and the winners of the Democratic and Republican party primaries in May.

Johnson is the daughter of the late Samuel Johnson, a long-time Republican House member from Central Oregon and later Redmond mayor.

The campaign finance report included a number of large business community contributions.

The Pape Corp., a Eugene-based construction firm, gave $250,000.

Global Companies of Waltham, Mass., a petroleum and energy marketing business, gave $160,000.

The campaign reported eight cash contributions of $100,000 from:

-- Columbia Sportswear CEO Timothy Boyle, Portland

-- Hampton Lumber, Portland

-- Investor and businessman Peter Stott, Portland

-- Paula Teevin, wife of Shawn Teevin, owner of Teevin Land & Timber Co., of Astoria

-- Sause Bros. marine services company, Portland

-- Harsch Investment Properties, a commercial real estate company, Portland.

-- Springboard Group, a non-profit that lists dental equipment developer Brett Baker of Portland as president.

Alexia dePottere-Smith, a Portland attorney, gave "in-kind" management, surveying and polling work valued at $100,000.

Johnson's campaign underlined the cross-party support in the filing. Some of the more interesting small contributors:

--Mike Bonetto, the then-Republican who served as chief-of-staff to Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat.

-- Cameron Smith, a top aide to three Democratic governors who also worked for then-Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican appointed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown after the death of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.

-- Antoinette Hatfield, wife of the late Republican U.S. Senator and Governor Mark Hatfield

-- Former Sen. Frank Morse, R-Pendleton

-- Former Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey

-- Former Rep. Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River 

“I’m grateful to everyone from across party lines and across Oregon for helping our independent campaign get off to a strong start," Johnson said in a statement. "I only wish I had more time return calls — we’d have even more in the account!” 

Johnson, a state senator from Scappoose in northwestern Oregon, announced Oct. 14 that she would seek the governor's office via a rare route — gathering signatures to qualify on the ballot as an independent. 

Johnson's filing with the secretary of state is her first since Oct. 10.

The race is already attracting significant money for candidates.

Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who lives in Yamhill County, has raised $1,235,201 since announcing last month that he would run as a Democrat for governor. He's spent $189,933 and has $1,042,352 in cash.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, announced a run for governor just before Labor Day. As of Monday, she has raised $440,442. Spent $56,354 and has $475,206 cash on hand. On Sept. 1, Kotek revised her campaign finance committee from a House re-election fund to a run for governor. Her account reflects activity through Nov. 16.

Treasurer Tobias Read is seeking the governor's office. His campaign reports raising $661,018, while spending $229,295. He has $500,876 in cash. His account reflects activity through Nov. 8. He amended his campaign finance filing to a run for governor on Sept. 27.

On the Republican side, 2016 GOP gubernatorial special election nominee Bud Pierce of Salem is the top fundraiser. He has taken in $752,939 - with nearly half of the amount self-financed. He's spent $583,186.

Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who won an early straw poll of Republican activists conducted by the Oregon Catalyst conservative website, has just over $204,931 left in the bank of the $527,303 he's raised.

The other Republican who has seen traction in fundraising and spending is Portland political consultant Bridget Barton. Her campaign committee on Thursday showed $253,981 remaining of the 379,951 raised for the race.

Prior to Thursday, Johnson had not reported campaign fundraising and spending since Oct. 10, soon after she announced plans to mount an independent bid for governor.

At that time, the secretary of state's website showed Johnson with $521,605 in available cash, the bulk coming from $524,403 she rolled over from her state senate campaign finance committee. For 2021, Johnson had raised $65,850 and spent $68,869.

Johnson filed a finance reporting amendment on Oct. 10, switching the target for future fundraising from re-election to Senate District 18 to the governor's race. The committee was renamed as "Run, Betsy, Run."

Johnson's campaign finance report showed some interesting cracks in partisan contribution patterns.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, gave Johnson's campaign $1,000. As first reported by Willamette Week on Thursday, Beyer has known Johnson for decades. He first won a seat in the House in 1990 before moving to the Senate.

Beyer has also contributed $5,000 to Treasurer Tobias Read's campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Johnson, a member of the Oregon Legislature since 2001, said earlier that she wanted to be a centrist option between the extremes of a "left-wing liberal" and a "right-wing Trump apologist."

"Oregonians are ready to move to the middle where sensible solutions are found," Johnson said.

The iconoclastic step was in keeping with Johnson's life story. Born in Bend, her family owned timberlands in California and later bought what is now known as Black Butte Ranch.

Betsy Johnson's father, Samuel Johnson, owned timber and sawmills in the Deschutes County area that made him a millionaire.

Johnson and is wife, Elizabeth, donated the headwaters of the Metolius River to the National Forest Service in 1965.

Sam Johnson served seven terms in the House from 1965 to 1977, retired from state politics and successfully won a bid for mayor of Redmond in 1978. He died in office in 1984.

Beck Johnson followed her father into politics - elected to the House from districts in the southern and northern coastal areas before moving to the Senate in 2005.

Johnson received a degree from the Northwestern School of Law in 1977, but went into the aviation business, becoming licenses to fly plane and helicopters. She operated aviation businesses with her husband, John Helm.

A lobbyist for the Oregon Aviation Pilots Association, she head of the Oregon Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division.

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