Undercurrents of the 2022 Oregon Primary

By Larry Huss

The election results for the 2022 Oregon primary are in – well, mostly in. The folks in charge of the election in Clackamas County screwed up the ballot printing so bad that about eighty percent of the ballots cannot be read and so they are resorting to a costly and time consuming hand ballot count. No, not that kind of hand ballot count. This one apparently entails “good and honest” volunteers (all public employees with the likelihood that most will be members of the public employees unions) to transcribe the defective ballots on to “new” ballots that the machine can read. No room for shenanigans there, he said with a roll of the eyes.

But leaving aside the remarkably easy ways to cheat when Oregonians are confined to using vote by mail, there are some interesting messages coming from just vote counts. Here are some numbers to think about:

  • Total Registered Democrats in Oregon: 1,043,175
  • Total Registered Republicans in Oregon: 750,718
  • Total Registered Independents/Non-aligned in Oregon: 1,069,311.
  • Total Democrat votes for Governor 366,619
  • Total Republican votes for Governor 277,715
  • Total Independents/Non-aligned votes for Governor 0
  • Total votes for Democrat nominee (Kotek) 212,730
  • Total votes for Republican nominee (Drazan) 65,135
  • Total votes for Independent/Non-aligned 0

There are nearly forty percent more Democrats registered in Oregon than Republicans – a cautionary tale for Republicans. There are more Independents/Non-aligned voters in Oregon than there are either the Republicans or the Democrats – a cautionary tale for both Republicans and Democrats. Approximately 36.9 percent of Republicans voted while only 35.1 percent of Democrats bothered to vote in the primary – a slight edge to the Republicans but a minor advantage given the registration differences.

Tina Kotek (D) won her primary race handily with 58 percent of those Democrats voting and yet that number represented only 20 percent of Democrats registered to vote. Another cautionary tale for Ms. Kotek. Christine Drazan (R) won her primary with only 23 percent of those Republicans voting and that number represented just under 9 percent of Republicans registered to vote. (Ms. Drazan won in a crowded field of nineteen candidates while Ms. Kotek had only one serious challenger.) Ms. Kotek’s total votes received amounted to nearly 77 percent of the total number of votes cast for all nineteen Republican primary candidates – an extraordinary cautionary tale for the Republicans.

Should the column end here, Oregon would expect the normal biannual results where the Democrats sweep all of the statewide offices simply because of their overwhelming registration advantage. In most years, the plurality of Independent/Non-aligned voters do not have a serious alternative and, therefore, their votes are split between the Republicans and the Democrats.

It is difficult to determine which party receives the majority of those Independent/Non-aligned votes because the count only determines who votes and not how they voted. However, you can extrapolate a good guess based upon passed gubernatorial races. In the 2016 gubernatorial race Gov. Kate Brown (D) won over Bud Pierce (R) by a margin of 50.6 percent to 43.7 percent a far cry from the 40 percent registration margin that Democrats enjoy in Oregon. And again in 2018 Ms. Brown won over Dr. Kurt Buehler (R) by a margin of 50.1 percent to 43.7 percent again a far cry from the registration advantage. From that you can determine that the overwhelming majority of Independent/Non-aligned voters went to the Republican candidates.

You might argue that the break of the Independent/Non-aligned voters in the last two elections reflects the extraordinary negative view of Ms. Brown – she being the least liked/most disliked governor in the United States. It appears that Ms. Kotek is equally disliked and, in the end, may make Ms. Brown look like Mother Teresa. Add to that is the fact that Ms. Kotek has succeeded to Ms. Brown’s full embrace of Oregon’s public employee unions – first, last and always. Reasonable people would assume that the tilt of the Independent/Non-aligned voters will continue to be not in favor of the Democrat nominees.

But this year is different. Independent/Non-aligned voters have a serious challenger in former Rep. Betsy Johnson from Scapoose, Oregon. More importantly that seasoned challenger has decades of experience in Oregon government, significant financial support (much of it garnered from traditional Republican sources) and endorsements from prominent Democrats, including former Democrat governors and even a longer list of prominent Republicans such as former Speaker Larry Campbell (R), former Sen. Gordon Smith (R), Gerry Frank, Antoinette Hatfield, and even 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kurt Buehler. The major financial contributors are individuals and companies with deep roots in Oregon who have lived here, grown their businesses here and expressed deep concerns about the direction of government in the aftermath of Ms. Brown’s tenure as governor – Phil Knight (Nike), Tim Boyle (Columbia Sportswear), the Pape Group, Frank Dulcich (Pacific Seafood) and a host of timber executives and/or their companies. In short, these contributors appear to care more about saving Oregon than bolstering a political ideology with either major party.

Oregon is failing. The pace at which it is failing is accelerating now that the public employee unions and the far left liberal/progressives have seized control of the Democrat Party. Oregonians face a choice. Me, I would trust those who have helped Oregon grow over the past five decades rather than recent spat of ideologues who have demonstrated a willingness to burn Oregon down.