By editorial board • 

Passing reins to Betsy Johnson best bet for meaningful change

We’ve made no secret of our disenchantment with Kate Brown’s reign in the governor’s office. We’ve found her secretive, partisan, remote and autocratic.

The way we see it, House Speaker Tina Kotek promises, in substantial measure, to simply deliver more of the same. That’s why we threw our support to the more moderate, pragmatic and conciliatory state treasurer, Tobias Reed, in the Democratic primary.

We would jump at the chance to replace Brown with a moderate Republican in the statesmanlike and charismatic mold of Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall or Vic Atiyeh. House Minority Leader Christine Drazan doesn’t quite fill the bill.

Drazan’s not off on the radical QAnon fringe with GOP Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins, but she’s beholden to a base serving to push her as far right as it can. And that would make it utterly impossible for her to work effectively with the Legislature’s lopsided Democratic majorities.

Fortunately, there’s a serious, well-funded alternative this year in veteran legislative leader Betsy Johnson, a former Blue Dog Democrat running as an independent. She’s the only one of the three with the clout, charisma and bonafides on opposing sides of the political spectrum to break the mold in a workable way.

We’re not enamored of all of Johnson’s political positions by any means, and her current campaign has come off too spiteful for someone trying to resonate as a great collaborator.

But she features the force of personality to rally ordinary people to her causes and campaigns, not just huddle with advisers, analyze polling data, parley with interest groups and count votes in back rooms off limits to the press and public.

Johnson has found enough fortune in business to join the ranks of Oregon’s  millionaires. However, she’s never forsaken her roots in Scappoose, a rural outpost in a county steeped in the traditions of farming, ranching and logging, thus much like ours. 

Historically, the governorship has been dominated by denizens of Portland and the populous Willamette Valley spilling from its southern flanks. John Kitzhaber was a rare exception the Democrats would be hard-pressed to replicate today.

As a result, the needs of residents of the rural two-thirds of our state, particularly the working class residents often making their living off of land or sea, have often gotten short shrift. We’ve done a much better job of supporting mass transit projects in Portland than job-producing endeavors in the hinterlands.

Johnson has pledged to veto any legislation lacking bipartisan support. Democrats say that amounts to handing the Legislature’s beleaguered GOP minority something it has little hope of achieving at the polls, thus doesn’t by any means deserve.

However, we see method in Johnson’s madness. We feel that gambit could well serve to force the two opposing sides to actually narrow their differences enough to forge workable compromises — something neither Kotek nor Drazan would have much hope of pulling off. 

What’s more, she’s been a longtime critic of entrenched bureaucracy in powerful state agencies. And her long service in the Senate has given her valuable insights into their inner workings.

Johnson has one thing going for her that both of her opponents lack, and that’s moxie. And where there’s a will, there’s a way.

We think the best route to workable change in Oregon, change that shifts the balance toward ordinary folks, unaffiliated voters and residents of rural counties like ours, runs through Betsy Johnson.

It’s a rare opportunity. If we don’t seize it, we may never get the chance again.


Don Dix

She is a true independent, not of the party that 'labels' themselves such. Wise call NR, wise call.


I have to seriously disagree with you on this. Betsy has been in with the Democrats for nearly 20 years. Now all the sudden she tries to make the case that they're wrong - yet she's voted with them most all the time. I've observed her in pretty important meetings where she wasn't paying any attention to what was going on at all, then suddenly blurts out "what do you want me to do?". She is well funded by sugar daddy democrats in this race. You have to ask yourself why would millionaires be so interested in her becoming Governor? She only flipped Independent because she likely couldn't get nominated any other way. You can't be a D for your lifetime, then all the sudden expect people to believe that the D's are all wrong. She also professes that she will "force" both parties to work together. That's not leadership. No one will be forced into anything in Salem, the situation calls for true leadership - which Betsy has none. Kotek is nothing more than Kate Brown on steroids. It's laughable to hear Kotek and Betsy talk about how they're gonna fix things, yet they've held positions of substantial power while things have fallen completely off the rails. The only candidate with truly rural roots, and a conservative education to go with it is Christine Drazan. Born in Southern Oregon, educated at conservative George Fox University right here in Yamhill County, I think she is the best solution who would understand and represent the interests of our area the best.

Don Dix


I think Betsy is more middle than you realize. She has always been considered a moderate or conservative D. Christine seems likable, but she would strike down legal abortion if given the chance. Tina Kotek is simply so far left she could automatically qualify for a NASCAR event.

At this point, my vote is for Betsy.


Breaking news today. Phil Knight(Nike) just donated another $2M to Betsy's campaign. That means he's donated in the neighborhood of $3M to her coffers. Now who do you think she's going to represent??? He's clearly trying to buy the Governor. Quid Pro Quo will be alive and well with those two.


She's the "Tulsi Gabbard" of Oregon. Hard pass.

Don Dix

Uncle Phil is spending on Rs, with the exception of Johnson. Apparently he believes she not a D.


Phil backed Knute Buehler as I recall….so his money is no guarantee of success. But yes, those kinds of donations come with some expectations.


Appears that Phil is covering all the bases...after giving Betsy 3.75 million, he just gave the Drazen campaign a million.
Exhibit A for limits to campaign contributions.

Don Dix

So Phil's money has an expectation clause -- just as do all the other big spenders in every campaign -- nothing new.

Joel R

I just saw a poll that said Drazen is running neck and neck with Kotec with Johnson a distant third. Would be amazing if we had our first Republican governor since the early 80's.

Bill B

@Jean; Well, good for Betsy and good for Tulsi!


Seems as if most people are doing well in this state given a two year disease epidemic and the high costs for gasoline to the benefit of oil companies and their investors. A hunting season is about to begin with no ill-effects from policies and laws to reduce gun violence, people can make their own decisions about family planning, and goods and services are back to being more available. The Governor, nor any other legislator, has taken away personal rights or freedoms. Public safety hereabouts seems pretty good. Our local implementation of policy is lacking at times.

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