Tina Kotek wins Oregon governor’s race, fending off strongest Republican bid in a decade

Democrat Tina Kotek has won the race for Oregon governor, defeating Republican Christine Drazan.

It was a hard-fought and expensive win by Democrats, who have a huge party registration advantage in Oregon but faced strong headwinds this year amid voter frustration at problems including homelessness, violent crime and lackluster delivery of government programs and services.

­As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Kotek was ahead of Drazan by 30,000 votes, the state’s tally showed. And Multnomah County had yet to tabulate results from 80,000 ballots it has logged as received by 10 a.m. Wednesday, state and county websites showed. With Multnomah voters favoring Kotek over Drazan by a better than 70% to 30% margin, those untallied votes in Oregon’s biggest, bluest county can be expected to add another 30,000 votes to Kotek’s lead, The Oregonian/OregonLive projects.

Votes still untallied in other counties that favor Drazan, including Clackamas, Marion and Yamhill, won’t be sufficient to erode Kotek’s substantial margin, an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive shows.

OREGON ELECTION 2022: Live Results Page | Election page | Governor’s race among those too close to call, results expected Wednesday

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s lowest-in-the-nation popularity rating was also widely viewed as a drag on Kotek’s ability to win over voters, and the Democratic nominee attempted with increasing intensity to distance herself from Brown by criticizing the governor in debates and ads. Kotek also had to contend with an unusually well-funded unaffiliated candidate in Johnson, who polling showed was attracting more Democratic voters than Republicans.

Kotek’s win affirms just how difficult it is for a Republican candidate to win election to the state’s highest office, which Republicans last held in 1987.

Now, Kotek will get the opportunity that she said on the campaign trail she wanted: to follow through on initiatives that Democrats passed in the Legislature but the state hasn’t yet produced, such as the state’s family and medical leave program that is expected to launch eight months late while workers forgo as much as $453 million in benefits.

— Hillary Borrud; hborrud@oregonian.com; @hborrud

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