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Three women make history in race for Oregon governor

The 2022 November ballot will include Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson.

OREGON, USA — Three women are making Oregon history, each following a different path to end up on the ballot for the 2022 gubernatorial election. 

Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson will all compete for Oregon's highest office in November.

"It's a really powerful moment for Oregon," said Republican political consultant Rebecca Tweed. "Three very strong women, very credible, very intelligent." 

The unusual three-candidate race also marks the first time the major candidates for Oregon governor will all be women running against each other.

"It has taken years and years and years of work," said Multnomah County chair Deborah Kafoury. 

Kafoury is part of the broader legacy of women in Oregon leadership. Her mother, Gretchen Kafoury, was a trailblazer.

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"She wanted women to be in the room when it happened," Deborah Kafoury said.

In the 1970s, Gretchen Kafoury joined a group of women pushing back against the City Club of Portland's exclusion of women.

"With a rolling pin in her hand, protesting that women weren't allowed in," Deborah Kafoury said.

Gretchen Kafoury's efforts helped overturn the discriminatory policy that had been in place for more than 50 years, paving the way for her state political career and for other women to lead.

"Oregonians love voting for women," said political analyst Len Bergstein. 

Analysts like Bergstein and Tweed said November's gubernatorial race will likely be very competitive, and the most expensive in Oregon's history.

"A really interesting campaign to watch," Tweed said.

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With three nominees spanning the political spectrum, the three candidates will have their work cut out for them. They will have to earn swing votes and prove how they stand out best to represent Oregon.

"I think it will bring out voters who have felt underrepresented, and that goes on the Republican side also," Tweed said. "It's historic. I believe it's the first time the Republicans have ever had a women nominee (for Oregon governor)."

Only two of Oregon's 38 governors have been women: Barbara Roberts, who served from 1991 to 1995, and current governor Kate Brown, who took office in 2015. This year's election will add one more to that list.

"No matter what happens in November, we will have another woman in the room where it happens," Kafoury said.

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