Democrat Tina Kotek defeats Republican Christine Drazan in the Oregon governor’s race

According to NBC News, Democrat Tina Kotek has won the race for governor of Oregon, narrowly defeating Republican Christine Drazan. Kotek’s victory makes her one of the first openly gay governors in the United States. She will join another lesbian governor-elect, Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey, in making history in the 2022 midterm elections.

Kotek previously broke ground as the country’s first out lesbian speaker of a state House of Representatives, becoming the state chamber’s longest-serving speaker in 2013. In winning this year’s race, Kotek overcame a multitude of factors working against Democrats in the state, including divisions within the party, a competitive third-party candidate siphoning voter from her, and a barrage of political attacks launched by the GOP candidate and aligned groups over rising crime and homelessness in the state.

Polling had shown a dead heat between Kotek and Drazan in the days leading up to the election, with independent Betsy Johnson polling in the mid-teens peeling off what surveys showed was a large chunk of potential voters from Kotek. (Johnson served as a Democratic state legislator for two decades.)

The close race fueled Republican hopes that voters in the reliably blue state, which President Joe Biden won by 16 points just two years ago, would elect the state’s first Republican governor in 40 years. Drazan came close, relentlessly attacking Kotek on record-breaking crime and homelessness, and tying her to term-limited Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who has the highest disapproval ratings of any governor in the country, and Brown’s failure to address those issues.

Republican Christine Drazan

Johnson, a well-funded third-party candidate, also hammered Kotek on crime and homelessness, while painting herself as a moderate alternative, supportive of abortion and gun rights, to the two major party candidates. However, Kotek received last-minute assistance from Biden, who campaigned with her last month in one of his few appearances alongside Democrats running in November. Despite the national political headwinds working against Biden and Democrats, strategists told NBC News that his visit may have helped turn out enough Democratic voters to help Kotek win.

Kotek painted Drazan as “too right-wing” for Oregon voters in her own ads, as well as in campaign appearances and debates, attempting to link her to President Donald Trump and his allies who falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Her victory suggests that those messages reached Oregon voters.

Kotek, on the other hand, may have benefited from a strong Democratic turnout, which many predicted would come out to vote not only on abortion rights a top midterms concern following the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade but also on gun control, which was also on the ballot Tuesday.

Voters were asked whether they wanted to ban magazines with more than ten rounds and require criminal background checks for most gun purchases. Kotek supported gun control legislation, whereas her two opponents did not.

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