Election /

Congressman Kurt Schrader Endorses Independent Candidate to be Next Oregon Governor

Betsy Johnson has secured a number of bipartisan endorsements and describes herself as 'loyal only to Oregonians'

Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader has endorsed a woman who has been a member of both the Republican and Democratic Parties as the state’s next governor.

Betsy Johnson is currently petitioning to get on the November ballot as an independent. The former state politician declares on her website that she is “loyal only to Oregonians.”

Schrader, who had been President Joe Biden’s first endorsement in 2022, lost during the state’s May 17 primary while seeking a chance for an eighth term in Congress. He attributed his loss to an influx of liberal voters from Seattle and California over the last decade to areas around Bend.

I think the democratic party has moved quite a bit to the left moving out from underneath me. [The] socialist wing of the party has taken over and that’s their opportunity to elect somebody different,” the moderate Democrat told KATU. He is Oregon’s first incumbent congressional candidate to lose a primary since 1980.

Schrader announced on July 19 that he was endorsing Johnson’s gubernatorial bid. 

“People are concerned with the far-right and they’re exhausted with the extremism on the left,” Schrader said in a statement. “It seems the extremes on both sides just want to fight, leaving the rest of us frustrated. I believe Betsy Johnson is the leader [and] Oregon needs to move us forward.”

Johnson tweeted she was “pleased” to have the congressman’s support.

“Congressman Schrader has long been known as a moderate Democrat who works across the aisle in Congress to reach commonsense solutions,” Johnson wrote.

Schrader joins a number of Oregon’s political leaders from both major parties who have backed Johnson.

In a joint statement in May, Democrat Governor Ted Kulongoski and Republican Senator Gordon Smith endorsed Johnson as the best leader for the state’s future.

From the homeless crisis to public safety, to our schools, and to the urban-rural divide, our next governor will have some big problems to solve,” the leaders said. “We are in complete agreement that Betsy Johnson is the best person to solve those problems.”

“We have both worked with Betsy, and we know she has the courage, the common sense, and the ability to find common ground needed to get Oregon moving in the right direction,” said Kulongoski and Smith.

Johnson served in both the Oregon House and Senate for over two decades. She retired in 2021 to run for governor. At the time, she was the Chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

A champion helicopter pilot, Johnson founded an aviation company that took on a variety of projects, including assisting in mountain rescues and on movie productions. She has served as the manager for the Aeronautics Division of the Oregon State Department of Transportation and as the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Oregon Pilots Association.

“In her 2018 re-election, Betsy not only earned the Democratic Party nomination, but also the Republican and Independent Party nominations through write-in votes,” Johnson’s campaign notes. “She finished with 82% percent of the support from voters in her district.”

To be included on the ballot during the general election, Johnson’s campaign must collect signatures from 25,000 registered Oregon voters by Aug. 15.

Currently, the only elected independent to hold a gubernatorial office is Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, the governor of Puerto Rico. The unincorporated U.S. territory also has multiple state senators and representatives who are part of a third party.

There are no elected Independents in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Angus King of Maine are the only two independently-affiliated members of the U.S. Senate.

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