PORTLAND — Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek on Tuesday won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, beating state Treasurer Tobias Read in a victory for the party’s progressive wing.
Current Gov. Kate Brown, a progressive Democrat, cannot run for the position again due to term limits.
The Portland-based Kotek has collected endorsements from a third of Oregon lawmakers, nationally elected leaders, unions and organizations. But as someone who held power during a tumultuous time in Oregon, Kotek must convince voters she can improve the state while avoiding blame for its problems.
Kotek’s biggest challenger was Read, who was a state representative in Oregon for 10 years before being elected as treasurer.
Kotek, and the Republican who wins the primary, will be in a three-way race in November with Betsy Johnson, a former longtime Democratic state senator who is running as an independent. As a nonaffiliated candidate, Johnson does not need to run a primary race to make the fall ballot.
Oregon hasn’t seen a GOP governor in 35 years. But political experts say Republicans have an opening for victory amid widespread discontent in the state and a possible split in votes among the majority parties as the unaffiliated Johnson makes a gubernatorial run in the fall.
Among the crowded field of 19 Republican candidates are former Oregon House Republican leader Christine Drazan, former Oregon Republican Party Chair Bob Tiernan and Dr. Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist.