The gubernatorial election on Nov. 8 is just six weeks away, and recent polls show the leading Republican candidate, Christine Drazan, holding a narrow lead over the Democrat nominee, Tina Kotek. This is noteworthy as Oregon has been a historically blue state, not having seen a Republican governor since 1987. Both of our Democratic senators boast long tenures.
This begs the question of why this race is even as close as it is. The first thing that comes to mind is that the Democratic voting base feels disenfranchised. Kate Brown’s popularity has seen a steep decline since she became governor in 2015, and she currently has the lowest approval rate in the country.
Brown’s tenure is marred by houselessness rising to an unprecedented rate and a botched response to COVID-19. Brown’s inefficiency when managing Oregon’s state agencies has led to widespread loss of faith from the state’s voting base.
Further, Brown has proven reactionary and incapable of making bold moves even when given the opportunity and resources to do so. An example of this tendency would be Brown’s failure to address the climate change issue in a satisfactory manner, despite having ample revenue and a supermajority in the Oregon House of Representatives. Unable to pass any substantive legislature, Brown ultimately settled for a halfhearted executive order that did not assuage core issues.
Kotek, however, is not content to settle. Kotek has been a longtime ally of outgoing Governor Brown, and people do fear that she will simply become Brown 2.0. They rightfully see the similarities between the two women. Both are openly LGBTQ+ and both are left-wing Democrats. However, that is where the similarities end. In contrast to the personable but ineffectual Brown, Kotek gets things done, no matter the cost.
Kotek’s promising track record has been shown during her tenure as speaker of the State House, where she obtained results and passed the legislation she promised to. One notable instance came in 2019 when she was tasked to pass an unpopular public reform bill. The bill was aimed at tackling Oregon’s large outstanding pension debt, specifically giving the state more time to come up with the money. It was met with staunch resistance from two of Oregon’s largest unions—both important voting bases for Oregon Democrats. Despite both threatening to not endorse legislators who voted for the bill and the initial vote being short by two votes, Kotek worked her magic, calling several of her colleagues who disagreed with her office. While some emerged in tears, they all changed their votes and passed the bill.
To some, such actions might seem overly aggressive, but in today’s political climate, giving an inch just opens up the door for the opposition to take a mile.
Kotek faced this with Republican obstruction in 2021. Her current gubernatorial opponent, Drazan, tried to abuse negotiated veto-power over congressional district drawing to give Republicans an advantage. Kotek played hardball in response and rescinded Republican veto-power, choosing to shoulder the outcry instead of compromising.
Kotek also has concrete plans for Oregon’s current housing crisis, in stark contrast to her opponents Drazan and Betsy Johnson. Drazan’s plan is both brief and only tackles the housing issue from a drug policy standpoint by repealing Measure 110—a policy that decriminalized hard drugs. Putting those experiencing houselessness into jail is hardly the solution here.
Kotek comes forward with an actionable plan with clear timeframes of when and how she would execute them after taking office. While none of the three plans the candidates have proposed will be a magical solution to the ongoing housing crises, Kotek’s plan is the only one that doesn’t come off as empty politician talk, where many words are spoken but none are said.
It must be said that while Kotek and Brown’s alliance might not have proven as fruitful as we would have hoped, the failures of Brown’s tenure cannot be placed on Kotek’s doorstep. Governor Brown was the person who carried out executive policy, while Kotek was just the one who pushed hopeful policy through. On that front, during Kotek’s career as speaker of the State House, she boasted noticeable victories of preventing the government from restricting abortion access in advance of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as well as raising Oregon’s minimum wage.
Ultimately, while Brown’s intentions were noble, they fell short due to a lack of leadership ability. Kotek has shown time and time again she has the wherewithal needed to obtain results. If elected, she is well-positioned to lead Oregon to a brighter future.