By editorial board • 

Dems would do best with Read in fall gubernatorial showdown

The Oregon governor’s race is wide open this year — perhaps as wide open as ever in the state’s 163-year history.

For the first time in two decades, there is no incumbent casting a long shadow over the arena. That has drawn enough candidates to field a pair of fully manned football teams, with enough left over to flesh out the coaching and reffing ranks.

In all, we have 19 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one Democrat-turned-Independent — former state Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, the only one of the 35 hopefuls getting a pass in the May 17 primary.

Based on credentials, funding, organization and endorsements, the Democratic nomination seems destined either for two-term State Treasurer Tobias Read or former House Speaker Tina Kotek. Their rivals are all political unknowns of limited reach and resources.

Spoiler alert: We favor Read, for reasons we’ll get to if you read on.

The Republican race is harder to handicap.

Based on the same criteria, prospects seem brightest for Salem physician and clinic owner Bud Pierce and former House Minority Leader Christine Drazen. But Bob Tiernan and Bill Sizemore should ring bells with most Republicans, and several lesser-knowns are doing everything they can to ring bells of their own.

The four members of our editorial board were unable to settle on a single contender for the GOP nomination. We found the most favor with the two apparent frontrunners, Pierce and Drazen, and a pair of self-made darkhorse alternatives, Nick Hess and Jessica Gomez.

Why Read over Kotek, whose near-universal union backing has to make her the favorite? Primarily because we see him as a moderate, thoughtful and likable consensus-builder, thus offering a more striking departure from the contentious reign of Kate Brown.

A Pennsylvania transplant holding degrees in religion and international relations, Kotek got into politics like many other Democrats — as a social issues activist. Before winning election to the House in 2006, she earned her spurs as a public policy advocate for the Oregon Food Bank, policy director with Children First for Oregon and co-chair of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon.

Since running in a pair of competitive House primaries, losing in 2004 and winning in 2006, she has loped to lopsided victories in a district thoroughly dominated by Democrats. During her reign as House speaker, a fierce allegiance to party causes often left Republicans — and sometimes more moderate Democrats — feeling alienated.

After a rural childhood in Montana and Idaho, Read came to Oregon to study politics and economics at Willamette University. He then served as an aide to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers in Washington, D.C.

He went on to earn an MBA at the University of Washington and take a management post with Nike in Portland.

He entered the Oregon House in the same class as Kotek, and advanced through leadership ranks with her until winning election as state treasurer in 2016. But he was oriented more toward business and finance initiatives than social issue causes.

Unlike Kotek, he has twice run and won competitive statewide campaigns. And with his amiable style, he has made vastly fewer enemies.

Both have performed capably under fire, and at high levels. But he seems better at smoothing troubled waters, she at stirring them to new heights. And in these troubled times, we place more value in smoothing.

On the GOP side, we see some of the same qualities in Pierce, who earned our endorsement in both the primary and general when he first sought the governor’s office in 2016, losing to Brown.

A janitor’s son, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps before going on to earn M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at UCLA and launch a highly successful career as an oncologist. He displays greater moderation than most of his rivals, but holds the conservative bonafides to win broad support in Republican ranks.

Drazen’s path, like Kotek’s, is rooted in the Oregon House. She has not run statewide before, and seems somewhat more partisan than Pierce in her political orientation.

She is a native Oregonian who graduated from George Fox University in Newberg. In the 1990s, she served as chief of staff to Mark Simmons during his terms as House majority leader and speaker

After a stint as executive director of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition, she won election to a House seat in 2018 and the minority leader chair the following year.

Nick Hess is a businessman and entrepreneur who heads a cybersecurity firm he built from the ground up. A Portland native, he terms himself “fiscally responsible and socially moderate.”

Jessica Gomez is also a high-tech entrepreneur who founded her own business. She touts her life experience, saying, “In my lifetime, I have gone from homeless teen to CEO of a world-class microchip manufacturing business.”

Several of their rivals are striking loud, angry, ugly notes unbecoming of the office. We hope Republicans can reject the fiery stridency of the extreme fringe, as it’s certainly not going to find favor in November. 


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