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Tobias Read endorses Democratic primary opponent Tina Kotek for Oregon governor

Tina Kotek, left, and Tobias Read.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
Tina Kotek, left, and Tobias Read.

In a normal year, the endorsement would be a no-brainer. This year, however, former state Sen. Betsy Johnson has changed the dynamics.

After repeatedly attacking her leadership in the Democratic primary, State Treasurer Tobias Read has endorsed former House Speaker Tina Kotek for Oregon governor.

Read announced his decision to back Kotek in a written statement on Tuesday.

“Our values and our future are on the ballot — everything from protecting reproductive rights, to combating gun violence, to battling climate change, to spurring rural economic development, and improving our schools so everyone has a chance to succeed. Everything we care about is on the line. It’s essential to have a Governor that shares these priorities,” he said in the statement. “I’m endorsing Tina Kotek and will work hard to elect the entire Democratic ticket this fall to secure the future we want for Oregon and our kids.”

The endorsement is not a shocker — it’s almost unheard of in Oregon for the loser in a Democratic primary to support someone other than their party’s nominee. But this year there is a variable in the race for Oregon’s highest office: Former Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson has given up her party affiliation and is attempting to collect enough signatures to make the November ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.

For Johnson to win, she likely needs to take potential votes from both moderate Democrats who might otherwise support Kotek and moderate Republicans who, in a two-candidate race, would be inclined to automatically back GOP nominee Christine Drazan, a former House Republican leader. Johnson also needs a healthy chunk of the state’s unaffiliated voters.

That reality has given the race to line up endorsements extra urgency. Last week, former U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, a Democrat who represented the 5th Congressional District from 1997-2009, announced her endorsement of Johnson.

Kotek handily beat Read, also a former member of the Oregon Legislature, in the Democratic primary. During the campaign, Read blamed Kotek for failing to help solve some of Oregon’s most pressing problems, including homelessness, during her term as Oregon House speaker. He positioned himself as a more pragmatic and politically moderate Democratic candidate.

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