Former state Sen. Betsy Johnson prepares to submit 17 boxes with 48,214 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. (Julia Shumway/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
Betsy Johnson’s months-long campaign to make it on the November ballot culminated Tuesday with volunteers stacking 17 boxes of signature sheets in a set of wire cage shelves at the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.
Johnson, a longtime Democratic state senator who ended her legislative career last year to run for governor as a non-affiliated candidate, won’t know for sure whether she’ll be on the ballot until staff in the office’s Elections Division verify that she has enough valid signatures from Oregon voters. The office will make its determination by Aug. 30.
Johnson handed in 48,214 signatures, her campaign said – far more than the 23,744 she needed to qualify.
A couple dozen Johnson supporters and reporters gathered in front of the Secretary of State’s Office at noon Tuesday to hear Johnson speak briefly before turning in the signatures.
“This is a historic day, and what it proves is that you don’t have to join a party or change parties to put Oregonians back in charge if you just want a better Oregon,” Johnson said.
She thanked three supporters – “Ida Mae” from the Gorge, “Nancy” from Baker City and “Evelyn” from Scappoose – for collecting signatures. Evelyn Hudson of Scappoose and Nancy Blanco of Powell Butte each collected more than 280 signatures for Johnson’s campaign, according to campaign Instagram posts. Neither immediately returned phone calls Tuesday afternoon.
“They stood out in 102-degree weather,” Johnson said. “They walked door to door, they badgered and nagged their families and friends to sign the petitions. These were petition warriors and we ended up with the signatures that we need to easily qualify for the ballot.”
Along with volunteers, Johnson relied on paid circulators to collect signatures. She paid more than $200,000 to a Washington-based company to collect signatures, and some circulators were hired through Craigslist.
If Johnson collected enough valid signatures, she’ll be on the ballot with Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan. So far, she leads the pack in fundraising, with more than $10 million raised to $6 million for Drazan and $5.8 million for Kotek. The nonaffiliated candidate also has more cash available than her opponents combined: $4.7 million compared to Drazan’s $2.2 million and Kotek’s $1.2 million.
A series of large early contributions, including $1.75 million from Nike cofounder Phil Knight and millions more from Oregon lumber and fishing businesses, boosted Johnson above her competitors.
Drazan snapped out a news release shortly after the event, saying her campaign “welcomes second Democrat to November ballot.” Drazan is benefiting from national Republicans and polling suggesting she’s the GOP’s best chance in decades to win the Oregon governor’s race. The Republican Governors Association gave her campaign $1 million on Friday, adding to more than $500,000 it already spent to boost Drazan’s campaign.
It’s less than the national Republican group is spending in other competitive races: the RGA announced last week that it would spend more than $11 million on ads tearing down Arizona’s Democratic nominee, Katie Hobbs.
Kotek hasn’t yet received as much aid from the Democratic Governors Association, which gave her campaign $800,000 in early August. So far, the Democratic group has spent just under $900,000 backing Kotek, including in-kind contributions in the form of opposition research.
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