Christine Drazan is on track to receive fewer votes than any Republican nominee in the past 80 years. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Republican gubernatorial nominee Christine Drazan has a monumental task in front of her: convincing the more than three-quarters of Republican primary voters who preferred other candidates to coalesce around her campaign going into the fall election.

Drazan officially accepted her party’s nomination during a brief meeting with reporters Thursday morning, a day after runner-up Bob Tiernan called her to concede. The 65,050 votes counted for her by Thursday afternoon will increase as county officials continue processing tens of thousands of ballots, but Drazan is on track to receive fewer votes than any Republican nominee in the past 80 years.

She attributed the limited support for her campaign to running in a field of 19 Republicans. Tina Kotek, the former speaker of the House won the Democratic nomination by garnering support from more than 56% of voters in a similarly crowded field of 15, though Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read faced a field of mostly unknown candidates and the Republican field contained several well-known activists and local elected officials. 

“Republicans across the state all raised their hand and said ‘I want to be a part of change,’” Drazan said. “The great thing about this process that we’ve all experienced is that we have more in common than our differences within the Republican Party and within my opponents in this primary.” 

Drazan, former House Republican leader, said she will do everything she can to unify Republicans while also reaching out to nonaffiliated voters and Democrats who are frustrated with the status quo. 

“I believe that Republicans will rally and that we will recognize that this is an opportunity that we can’t squander,” Drazan said. “But I will absolutely reach out and make sure that people know that what I’m looking for is to represent all Oregonians in a way that improves quality of life for everyone.” 

Oregon has more than 1 million non-affiliated voters and Democrats and about 730,000 Republicans.  

Former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, who’s running a nonaffiliated campaign for governor, stepped up her own campaigning this week. She announced Thursday that former Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and former Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith endorsed her campaign. 

“From the homeless crisis to public safety, to our schools, and to the urban-rural divide, our next governor will have some big problems to solve,” the two said in a joint statement. “We are in complete agreement that Betsy Johnson is the best person to solve those problems. We have both worked with Betsy, and we know she has the courage, the common sense, and the ability to find common ground needed to get Oregon moving in the right direction.”

Kotek, meanwhile, toured a Portland addiction treatment center Thursday with former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who planned to run against her in the Democratic primary before state election officials and the Oregon Supreme Court ruled him ineligible. Kristof endorsed her campaign in a sharp turn from the months of pointed criticism he levied at Oregon’s Democratic leaders.

“On housing, homelessness, education, she has actually led and made a real difference for Oregonians,” he said in a statement. “That’s why I’m delighted to support her.”

Kristof’s support means Kotek could receive a portion of his $1 million campaign warchest, which has been sitting mostly unused since his disqualification in February. He gave $10,000 from the campaign fund to a Democratic candidate for the Yamhill County Commission but otherwise has only dipped into it for campaign legal fees and bookkeeping. 

Kotek will have continued support from labor unions and progressive advocacy groups, which helped fund the roughly $2.4 million she raised and spent for her primary campaign

 Large donors who frequently support Republicans, including Nike co-founder Phil Knight and some Oregon companies in the timber and seafood industries, have this time backed Johnson, but Drazan said she was not concerned about her ability to raise money. For the primary, she raised $2.5 million, more than any candidate except Johnson ($8.5 million) and Kristof ($2.8 million). 

“I’m confident that Oregonians will recognize this opportunity to lead our state in a new direction, and that now that we are out of the primary, we have a nominee and I’m standing here before you today accepting that nomination, that I will be competitive in this race financially,” she said. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.