PORTLAND, Ore. — During a tour of a new treatment and recovery center in Southeast Portland, former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof announced his endorsement of Democratic nominee Tina Kotek for governor.
The move comes two days after Kotek's victory in the Democratic primary, and about three months after Kristof ended his own campaign for governor when he was ruled ineligible under the state's three-year residency requirement.
KGW sat down with Kotek and Kristof for an exclusive interview about their plans ahead of November.
“We need more treatment facilities like what Fora is offering,” Kotek said while touring Fora Health, a treatment center for people struggling with substance use disorder. “You walk in here and you immediately feel that this is a place where people can find recovery.”
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The facility ties into the work and policies backed by both Kotek and Kristof.
“I think it's a national scandal that we are losing a quarter million Americans a year to overdoses, alcohol and addiction — a quarter million, and that our response is so pathetic,” Kristof said.
Kristof grew up in Yamhill County and embarked on his own run for governor last year. He said he's now backing Kotek because he believes she's the progressive candidate Oregon needs.
“Oregon faces huge challenges and I want a governor who can work really seriously to address those challenges,” he said.
Those challenges include homelessness, education and addiction — three issues Kotek has a history of facing head-on.
“I'm honored to have his endorsement," she said. "We have to work on these things together."
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Kotek said she believes Kristof's endorsement will help her win come November, especially when it comes to securing a rural vote.
“It's going to be good for the state because we both share the same concerns and values of what we want this state to look like," she said.
On the issue of homelessness, Kotek said her plan will be to get people living on the streets into safer places, such as recovery centers, and eventually permanent housing — and she said her plan would begin in the "first 10 minutes" of her administration.
“It's going to take the next ten months as well, making sure we can have more shelters, more places for people to go,” she said.
“I look at her rivals and I don't see that kind of leadership,” Kristof added.
Kotek said she plans to work alongside Kristof these next few months leading up to November to try and instill hope in Oregonians and fight for a brighter future.
“It's going to be a tough race in November," she said. "Historically, we're going to have three women running, but the two other folks in the race are conservative they are not as interested in raising up the opportunity for every Oregonian to be successful."
Kotek faces former Democratic state senator Betsy Johnson, running without any party affiliation but with muscular financial backing, and former state House Republican leader Christine Drazan.