SALEM, Ore. — The Democratic Party's four-decade hold on the governorship in Oregon will continue after The Oregonian named Tina Kotek the projected winner Wednesday morning.
Kotek held a news conference Thursday morning to address Oregonians.
"I ask my fellow Oregonians, no matter who you voted for, or even whether you voted at all, to believe in or state and future. Please be engaged so we can all help solve problems together," Kotek said.
She briefly outlined three things she plans to tackle first when she's in office. Kotek said she will declare a state of emergency on homelessness, expand access to mental health and addiction treatment services, and work to "bridge the divisions in our state."
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Kotek held a lead of more than 54,000 votes over Republican Christine Drazan. While not an insurmountable number, the votes still left to count will likely break toward Kotek.
Multnomah County, Oregon's largest by population, still had about 80,000 ballots uncounted at the time The Oregonian called the race Wednesday morning, and the paper reported that, based on ballots processed so far, about 70% of the remaining votes are expected to go to Kotek — only adding to her lead.
Additional results are expected to be released around 6 p.m. Thursday night.
After the additional results released Wednesday night, Kotek's campaign released a statement that appeared to be a declaration of victory.
“Oregon faces major challenges, and I look forward to getting to work to solve them. I promise to be a Governor for all of Oregon," Kotek said. "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."
Drazan's campaign released a statement shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday, indicating that she was not ready to concede the race
"With several hundred thousand ballots yet to be counted, we continue to exercise patience as we await additional clarity regarding the final outcome of this race," Drazan said. "Oregonians should have confidence that their votes will be counted as our county clerks continue their diligent work."
Kotek, the longest-serving Oregon House speaker, faced a significant challenge from Drazan, a former leader of the Republican minority in the House. For weeks leading up to the election, polls showed the two within percentage points of each other.
The race was too close to call on election night, with both receiving around 45% of the vote and Kotek holding a narrow lead Tuesday night. A new batch of vote results came in Wednesday, pushing Kotek's advantage out of reach.
Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson finished a distant third, drawing a little less than 9% of the vote. She conceded early Tuesday night, telling supporters that though she didn't win, "the campaign was a success. We made an impact."
The race was shaped, in large part, by the presence of Johnson, a former Democratic state senator. Her campaign was well-funded — she received a $3.75 million donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight before he pivoted to support Drazan — and she emerged as a factor in the race because of her ability to pull votes from both Kotek and Drazan.
The race also marked a historic first — three women competing on a general election ballot for the highest executive office in Oregon. Kotek will be the first openly lesbian governor, along with Maura Healy, the newly elected governor of Massachusetts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.