Betsy Johnson

Betsy Johnson

With a little more than two weeks to go until 2022, candidates running for political offices next year are busy making strategic moves, building their campaign nest eggs and reaping endorsements.

Stepping down: Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, announced via a video on Tuesday that she would resign Wednesday from her state Senate seat to devote her full time to running for governor as an unaffiliated candidate. The move brings an early end to her two decades in the Legislature. 

Johnson's move means a new senator will be appointed to fill her seat until after the election in November. Under law the appointee must be from the same party. Johnson was elected as a Democrat. Local party leaders in her district will submit a short slate of candidates to the commissioners of the counties included in Johnson's current Senate District 16: Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, Washington and Multnomah. The replacement would serve during the Legislature's 2022 "short session" in February and March, and would be the incumbent if they sought their own four-year term in November. Johnson said she hoped the commissioners would choose someone who would promise not to run for the seat next year. But the request is not binding.

Johnson's early departure complicates the plans of freshman Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, who had quickly announced she would run for the Senate after Johnson announced her bid for governor. The newly drawn district that will be on the ballot next year includes Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties, as well as smaller slices of Washington and Multnomah counties. While the new boundaries of the 16th Senate district are more favorable to Republicans, Democrats could make a strategic choice for Johnson's replacement who had a strong chance to keep the seat on the Democratic side of the aisle next November.

In announcing she would resign early, Johnson said it wouldn't be right for her current constituents to remain a senator while campaigning for governor.

“My reason is simple: Northwest Oregon deserves a full-time state senator, and running for governor is a full-time job,” Johnson said.

Johnson's statement could be interpreted as a shot at two opponents in the race to replace Gov. Kate Brown, who cannot run due to term limits.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has said she will keep both her seat and her position as top officer of the House while running for governor. Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, stepped down as House minority leader when she announced her own run for governor, though she kept her House seat. Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson of Prineville was then elected leader of the GOP caucus in the House.

Campaign clothing: As first noted Tuesday by Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week, Johnson wore a Columbia Sportswear vest in the video announcing her departure from the Legislature. Democratic governor candidate Nick Kristof wore Columbia gear during his announcement that he would run. Kristof is backed by Columbia's chief administrative officer, Peter Bragdon. Johnson is the choice of the top of Columbia's political pecking order, CEO Tim Boyle.

Kristof's golden donor from the Silver State: While Johnson has over $2.1 million in her campaign coffers, Kristof is keeping pace. The former New York Times columnist, who now lives in Yamhill County, has raised $1.9 million. He's reaped most of his largest donations from outside Oregon. Among the latest is a combined $50,000 from John Thornton, executive chairman of the world's biggest gold mining operation, Barrick Gold Co. in Elko, Nevada. Margaret Thornton, whose address is the same as John Thornton's, also gave $50,000.

Collection plates: Kotek's campaign landed $50,000 from the Local 48 Electricians political action committee in Portland. Johnson received $50,000 from Gregory Goodman, co-president of the Downtown Development Group in Portland. While Kristof and Kotek have reported donations as recently as Monday, the campaigns of Johnson and Tobias Read, the Democrat state treasurer running for governor, show donations only through part of last month. Under state law, candidates at this point in the election cycle are only required to post contributions and expenditures within 30 days.

On the Republican side, Portland consultant Bridget Barton, received $50,000 each from wealth management consultant Wayne von Borstel and his wife, Marta, of The Dalles. Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam has received $35,000 from Sandy real estate businessman Justin Alexander. 

Endorsement from east of Cascades: Former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer has been one of the most active campaigners for the newly-drawn 5th Congressional District, which straddles the Cascades with Portland and Bend as the anchors at each end. She attended Veterans' Day events in Deschutes County.

The incumbent in the race is U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, though the district has been shifted heavily east from the current boundaries. 

Chavez-DeRemer on Tuesday received the endorsement of former House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

“Lori Chavez-DeRemer is a dedicated public servant who will be a fierce advocate for Central Oregonians and take on the radical left," McLane said. McLane, who recently stepped down as a circuit court judge for Crook and Jefferson counties, had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the newly drawn seat. He is now a private attorney based in Bend and has announced no new political plans for himself. 

Chavez-DeRemer lives just outside of the newly drawn district. Under the U.S. Constitution, House members do not have to live in their district, just in the same state. Chavez-DeRemer has said she would move into the district.

Democratic candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the former Democratic candidate for Congress and Secretary of State, also lives just outside the district, on the Jefferson County side of Crooked River Ranch. She's challenging Schrader in the primary, saying he's bolted the party's caucus to vote with Republicans too many times on spending bills and other issues. She's backed by several progressive Democratic leaders, including state lawmakers, as well as Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang.

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