Long-time Oregon companies help State Sen. Betsy Johnson raise $2 million for governor’s race

Johnson, running as an independent, leads the announced pack of candidates in fundraising

By: - November 18, 2021 3:14 pm

Since she launched her independent run for governor a month ago, Betsy Johnson has accomplished two things no other candidate has yet: raising $2 million and securing large contributions from a broad swath of the state’s business community. 

The $2.2 million reported in Johnson’s campaign finance account is more than double the $1 million former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof raised for his Democratic campaign with the aid of out-of-state celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Melinda Gates. No other candidate has broken the $1 million mark.

Johnson’s decision to run as an independent unaffiliated with any political party means she won’t face a primary in May. She has to obtain about 24,000 signatures to make it to the general election ballot. She still faces tough odds to win – the only independent to ever win Oregon’s top job took office in the Great Depression.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson raised $2 million for her independent campaign for governor. (Johnson campaign)

The Scappoose timber heiress’s largest contribution, $250,000, came from the Papé Group, a logging equipment company based in the Willamette Valley. She also received $150,000 from Global Companies LLC, a Massachusetts-based subsidiary of Global Partners, one of the largest suppliers of gasoline in the northeastern U.S.

Pacific Seafood paid for $40,000 in polls and ten other companies owned by Clackamas seafood magnate Frank Dulcich each gave $20,000 in cash, for a total of $240,000 from Dulcich’s businesses. 

The CEO of Columbia Sportswear, Timothy Boyle, and Paula Teevin, wife of logging company owner Shawn Teevin, both gave her campaign $100,000. So did Alexia dePottere-Smith, general counsel at a sustainable energy nonprofit, and Peter Stott, president of the Columbia Investments private equity firm and the namesake of a Portland State University gymnasium.

Campaign finance reports also show that the nonprofit Springboard Group, ocean towing company Sause Bros, wood products manufacturer Hampton Lumber and real estate investor Harsch Investment Properties each gave Johnson $100,000.

Records show Johnson’s campaign spent about $10,000 since she began running, mostly on broadcast ads on local TV and radio stations.

Johnson’s financial support from businesses comes as candidates in both major parties try to stake out their lanes ahead of the May primary. 

Kristof, who returned to his family’s Yamhill farm and has never run for office, is styling himself as an outsider who can bring a fresh approach to state government. 

After Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle and Melissa Unger, the executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 503, declined to run for governor, Democratic House Speaker Kotek appeared the most likely to receive union backing. One powerful trade union, the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, quickly endorsed her. 

But the state’s largest private sector union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, is still smarting over a disparity in benefits for essential workers during the pandemic. The union lobbied unsuccessfully in 2020 and 2021 to use federal aid for bonuses to grocery workers and prioritize them for Covid vaccines. 

The union on Monday endorsed Kristof, citing its frustration with current politicians.  

“Frankly our board felt, as I do, that it’s foolish to support the politicians who praised essential workers during the pandemic while neglecting necessary worker protections,” union president Dan Clay said. “We need leadership that is willing to actually deliver solutions when they get to Salem, instead of trying to get in their sound bites.”

State Treasurer Tobias Read, who made Covid vaccine mandates the key plank of his Democratic campaign for governor, hasn’t yet found his lane. Both Read and Kotek have campaign war chests hovering around $500,000 and are gathering endorsements from other elected officials.

Other Democratic candidates, including Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, are struggling to get their message out and raise money when surrounded by bigger names. Kulla, a farmer, raised just over $50,000 and spent almost all of it.

On the Republican side, Salem oncologist Bud Pierce reported raising $750,000 for his campaign, but $360,000 of that came from his personal bank account. Pierce, who was his party’s 2016 nominee, has about $200,000 left to spend. 

Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, another Republican, is doing the best at raising money on his own, reporting $527,000 in contributions. Bridget Barton, a political consultant from Lake Oswego, has raised $378,000 so far. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

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.