Metro Weekly

Tina Kotek, Out Lesbian, Declares Victory in Oregon Governor’s Race

Democratic Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives faced a tough challenge in a three-way race.

Tina Kotek – Photo: Facebook.

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek’s campaign has declared victory in the state’s gubernatorial race based on reported projections from The Oregonian/OregonLive and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Although The Associated Press has not called the race, Kotek, who faced a strong challenge from Republican Christine Drazan, the former Minority Leader in the Oregon House of Representatives, and Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state senator who ran as a moderate independent. 

While Oregon Democrats have won the governor’s race in every election since 1986, Kotek faced a number of headwinds, including a poor national environment for Democrats, voter anger over inflation, the perception that Democrats had failed to solve Portland’s crime and homelessness problems, and the relative unpopularity of outgoing Gov. Kate Brown, who served as a drag on Democrats. Additionally, in earlier polls of the race, Johnson appeared to be siphoning off voters who otherwise might have favored Kotek over Drazan.

As of Thursday morning, with about 70% of the state’s mail-in ballots having been tabulated, Kotek opened up a small lead, with 46.7% of the vote to Drazan’s 43.9%, according to The New York Times. Based on projections of where the outstanding vote is — primarily in Democratic-leaning counties, Kotek’s campaign felt comfortable declaring victory

“Oregon faces major challenges, and I look forward to getting to work to solve them,” Kotek said in a statement, echoing some of her major campaign themes. “I promise to be a governor for all of Oregon. I will start by working tirelessly to deliver results on issues of shared concern across our state: housing and homelessness, access to mental health and addiction treatment, helping our students succeed, and supporting small businesses.”

LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization that advocates for greater LGBTQ political representation, and which had endorsed Kotek, celebrated her apparent victory. Kotek will be one of two out lesbian governors — a first for any state — and three LGBTQ governors serving come January. 

“This is a momentous moment for Oregon and LGBTQ people across the country,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Tina shattered this lavender ceiling because voters are clearly excited and enthusiastic about her vision for a more equitable, accepting future.

“As Speaker of the Oregon state House, she built diverse coalitions and delivered real results for her community. We are confident her experience and exceptional qualifications will make her a strong pro-equality, pro-choice leader for Oregon,” added Parker. “With anti-LGBTQ attacks sweeping the country, her election will also surely inspire many other LGBTQ leaders to run for office.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s top LGBTQ advocacy organization, also praised Kotek’s win, calling her a “trailblazer.”

“Oregonians elected Tina Kotek governor because of her consistent record of fighting for equality,” Joni Madison the interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “HRC is proud to have engaged Oregon’s 1.1 million Equality Voters to help pro-equality candidates win up and down the ballot. We celebrate Tina Kotek’s historic win and look forward to working with her to fight for a more equitable Oregon.”

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