Meet Betsy Johnson, the candidate who can destroy the dream of democracy in Oregon

Democrats in Oregon have long enjoyed party dominance and no viable opposition. The governor’s mansion has been particularly blue for decades, with outsiders seemingly unable to change its color no matter the year.

But in 2022, former State Senator Betsy Johnson could force that to change.

She’s well funded, with millions of dollars, and doesn’t need to spend money to win the party’s nomination. She is garnering approval from both sides of the aisle and attracting top politicians to her team. An independent poll found that after hearing a positive message about Johnson, 30% of respondents supported her, compared with 24% would support a general Democrat and 17 percent would support. a Republican in general.

And she’s throwing a big wrench into a two-way system that’s faced little challenge elsewhere.

Years ago, a third-party gubernatorial bid would quickly be rescinded in deep Oregon blue. A Republican has not held a seat since the 1980s, with the state’s urban liberals outpacing rural conservatives.

But like most states, Oregon’s political divisions have only grown in recent years. The parties have become more polarized. Democrats are grappling with progressive and moderate divisions. Republicans are figuring out where their party stands in the post-Trump era. And governors have been put on the map amid the Covid pandemic, with state policies playing an unusually excessive role in people’s daily lives.

Amid those shifts and conflicts over political allegiances, unrelated candidates like Johnson may have opportunities that were not available years ago.

“I’m going to win. I’m going to be governor… There’s going to be a lot of shots being fired into this effort. It doesn’t surprise me at all,” she told The Daily Beast.

A native of Oregon, Johnson was first elected to the state legislature in 2000 and built a reputation as a centrist Democrat who wasn’t afraid to join the party. But she said her departure from the Democratic Party was not a compelling decision of the moment. Instead, she said, it was the result of years of polarization that affected both the political wings of the state and bad realist policies.

“We are really good at legalizing drugs and not very good at educating our children,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “And being able to sit in the front row to watch this rural-urban divide tearing Oregon pushed me to step up.”

And she’s not alone in that assessment. Oregon’s urban centers have in recent years been a breeding ground for progressivism that some say has pushed the state’s Democratic Party too far, leaving moderate voters with little housing. Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown has been a case study of that relationship.

Even as Oregon’s economy outperforms in 2021, problems with homelessness, crime, and education continue to dampen the state’s attitudes. As with any political system, voters tend to lead solutions and are not always satisfied with those outcomes.

In a Morning Consult survey last fall, Brown was considered the least popular governor in America with an approval rating of 43 percent. She is currently on term limits after taking over the role from Governor John Kitzhaber (D) in 2015, who resigned amid numerous ongoing scandals. Former Radical House Speakers Tina Kotek and moderate Tobias Read are among the leading candidates to replace her, once again putting party divisions to the test.

On the left, Johnson hopes to reach Democrats who feel left behind by the state party and are ready for a change. But in doing so, she can open up a new box of worms. Splits among the Democratic establishment could dent the party’s profits and give the state’s Republicans new prospects.

If Republicans in 2022 can manage to keep their bases together – while Johnson is likely to weed out voters from the left – then Oregon Republicans could have a chance in race for dominance.

While Oregonians have secured a solid result for Biden by 16 points over Trump in 2020, the state’s Republicans have a record behind their Democratic rivals in the midterm elections. Brown won the 2018 presidential election against Republican Knute Buehler by just over 6 points. In 2014, Kitzhaber beat Republican Dennis Richardson by just over 5 points.

Republicans are also encouraged by the results of two power races in 2021. In Virginia, GOP Governor Glen Youngkin ran for office in what many see as a close check of the year. First took office by President Joe Biden. In New Jersey, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy narrowly narrowly won re-election with what is believed to be a blue seat safe.

But others remain skeptical that Oregon Republicans have a chance in 2022 — regardless of Johnson’s role. Buehler, the 2018 Republican candidate for governor of Oregon, is among them.

Buehler, who went from being a registered Republican to non-aligned after the Capitol riots on January 6, said it would be “best of the situation” for Oregon Republicans to win the war. gubernatorial wins in this cycle. As he describes it, that is unlikely.

He described the Oregon Republican Party as struggling in infighting and having a “deeply damaged” brand after the Trump administration. In his assessment, the state’s Republicans are still “classifying the process of what comes after Trump — and we’re not there yet.”

The Oregon Republican primaries appear to support Buehler’s argument — and are attracting some wild candidates. One of the Republican candidates, Reed Christensen, is under federal prosecution for allegedly assaulting a police officer during the January 6 uprising. Another, Stan Pulliam, has admitted to him. I was a member of a swing club in Portland. Many in the crowded area continue to support Trump – while some are more muted about the former president’s legacy.

So, instead, Buehler endorsed Johnson.

Democrats, meanwhile, seem to recognize Johnson’s traction. Just this week, a new political action committee led by the pro-Democrat Oregon for Ethics announced that it plans to target Johnson’s more conservative record, including the votes. her previous work to block gun control laws and her stance against a 2019 bill to limit Oregon’s carbon footprint, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The group, which was founded in February, has had one donation to date: $49,500 from the Democratic Governors Association.

There will likely be more money from in-state and out-of-state groups entering the race — and toward taking Johnson down.

Following the Oregon primaries, scheduled for May 17, Republican and Democratic candidates will have access to party resources, including cash, in when Johnson does not belong to any party will be left to her own devices.

Party fundraising could even affect who will publicly endorse Johnson, one lawmaker suggested. The majority of Johnson’s Democratic and Republican supporters are retired – meaning they are not at risk of having to tap those same party funds again.

“I think a lot of people in the Democratic Party are worried about insulting the funding base,” retired Senator Lee Beyer (D), a Johnson supporter, told The Daily Beast.

Johnson said she realized she wouldn’t have the “machines and money of entrenched political parties.” But she sees that as an advantage, saying it prevents her from seeing the “political wire” of a national agenda.

“I am absolutely convinced that the people of Oregon are eager to regain our pioneering spirit of independence and put people back in charge, not the parties,” she said. ”

A Democratic source told The Daily Beast that Johnson’s drop in support was simply about texting. They argued that displaying Johnson’s conservative profile would highlight “deal-breaking” issues for Democrats, while spurring Republicans to vote for her instead of her candidate. themselves.

It has yet to be seen that that approach – or Johnson’s approach – will work.

“I wouldn’t give up the status I love without a hell of a fight,” she said. “I just—I wouldn’t do that. Meet Betsy Johnson, the candidate who can destroy the dream of democracy in Oregon

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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