Because Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, is the richest person in Oregon ($54 billion), he feels he should get to pick the state government. Because billionaires go relatively untaxed, they can— and do— throw around immense sums of money in their quests— largely successful— to buy power and influence. Yesterday, Knight contributed $1 million to Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan. No big deal? Well, it kind of is because he had previously been financing the campaign of a Manchin-like conservative Democrat, Betsy Johnson and has given her at least $3.75 million.
In the last gubernatorial race, Knight tried to buy the seat for Republican Knute Buehler with $3.5 million in contributions ($2.5 million directly to Buehler and $1 million to the Republican Governors Association earmarked for Buehler). All those millions from Knight bought Buehler 814,988 votes (43.6%). Kate Brown beat him with 934,498 (50.5%).
The person Knight is trying to prevent from becoming governor is former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, the Democratic candidate. He doesn’t care if Johnson wins or if Drazan wins, just as long as Kotek, a progressive and an out lesbian, loses.
Oregon is a pretty progressive state. The PVI is D+6, same as Delaware and New Jersey, a point under Illinois and Connecticut. Trump only got 40.4% of the vote. 4 of Oregon's 5 congressional seats are held by Democrats, as are both Senate seats and every statewide elected office. Democrats hold 18 of the 30 state Senate seats and 37 out of 60 state House seats. Many of the Republican counties in the eastern part of the state are trying to secede and join Idaho.
Betsy Johnson’s father, Sam Johnson, was a wealthy conservative Republican politician from central Oregon, who served 7 terms in the state legislature, representing Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties. Afterwards he served as mayor of Redmond on the eastern side of the Cascades and died in office in 1984.
Betsy inherited his conservative politics and his lust for public office. Being pro-Choice, however, caused her to wind up in the Democratic Party. She was elected to the state House in 2000 in a red district in the southwestern part of the state-- Curry County, along with parts of Coos, Douglas and Josephine counties. Actual Democrats struggle to get even a third of the vote there but Johnson, who is anything but a real Democrat, won with 62%. Two years after being elected, she moved to Scappoose in Columbia County, way up north and ran for the legislature, again, as a conservative Democrat and won, no Republican running against her. She served two terms, without any GOP opposition, and was then appointed to an open state Senate seat to represent all of Clatsop and Columbia counties and part of Multnomah, Tilllamook and Washington counties. She's been reelected 3 times and despite it being a swing district, Republicans were happy enough with her Republican-leaning voting record to not run anyone against her in 2014 and 2018. In fact, in 2018 she was the GOP nominee as well as the Democratic Party nominee.
She’s running as an independent for governor. My friends in Oregon tell me she's a nightmare, both as a person and as a politician and that she would be a disaster for the environment, for working families, for gun safety and, most of all, for teachers. A clear special interests candidate, she started off outraising all the other candidates and has been getting a lot of support both from conservative Democrats and from Republicans. Buehler, for example, the 2018 GOP candidate, has endorsed her and contributed to her campaign. "Her donation list reads like a who’s who of Oregon’s wealthy families; $250,000 from the Pape Group, $125,000 from Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and money from the shipping company Sause Bros. When Jordan Schnitzer, the philanthropist and real estate developer, wanted to turn Wapato Jail into a homeless shelter, Johnson helped secure the money to make it a reality. His real estate company gave her campaign $100,000 right off the bat.
Now that Knight has started funding Drazan, Johnson is likely to further falter. With his contribution, Drazan has now raised about $13.9 million and spent nearly $10.5 million since January 2021. Kotek has reported raising $14.9 million and spending $12.6 million in that time frame while Johnson has reported raising $16.5 million and spending $15.1 million. You can contribute to Tina Kotek's campaign here or here, whichever page you like better.