Oregon Might Elect a Republican Governor for First Time in Four Decades

Oregonians might choose a Republican governor for the first time in 40 years, polls show, as voters look for new leadership to take on homelessness and crime and a well-funded independent candidate complicates the race.

Former Democratic state House Speaker Tina Kotek and former state House GOP leader Christine Drazan are running evenly at just under 39%, according to the polling average on the website FiveThirtyEight.

Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state senator who stepped down to run for governor as an independent, is drawing an average of 14%, according to FiveThirtyEight.

“Republicans have a lot of things going their way” in this race, said Jessica Taylor, an editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Ms. Taylor said Ms. Johnson—who is running a socially liberal, fiscal conservative campaign—is probably drawing more voters from Ms. Kotek than Ms. Drazan.

Democrats hold every statewide office in Oregon, and President Biden won the state by 16 percentage points in 2020. But many voters are frustrated with rising crime, entrenched homelessness and public drug use—particularly in Portland, the state’s largest city.

Portland hit a record number of homicides last year and is seeing a similar trend this year. The city became the center of violent clashes in the summer of 2020 at the same time people massed for racial-justice protests. In the fall of 2020, Oregon voters decriminalized possession of all drugs, a move Ms. Drazan and Ms. Johnson say has led to increased drug use on city streets.

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