Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Portland Democrat, has officially thrown her hat into the 2022 gubernatorial race.
“I am running for Governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon," said Kotek in a Wednesday press release announcing her run.
Kotek's campaign isn't a big surprise for those who've been following the contours of Oregon's political landscape. Kotek, 54, has represented the Oregon's 44th House District—which includes St. Johns and other sections of North Portland—since 2007, and has served as Speaker of the Oregon House since 2013, making her Oregon's longest-running House speaker.
In her Wednesday announcement, Kotek said her agenda as governor would focus on building affordable housing, expanding access to mental health care and addiction services, addressing the climate crisis, and fighting for racial and economic justice.
Kotek joins a quickly-expanding pool of candidates for the 2022 election to replace Gov. Kate Brown, who is restricted from running for a third term. Most who've officially announced their participation are Republicans, including Salem doctor Bud Pierce, Sandy mayor Stan Pulliam, and Medford tech business owner Jessica Gomez. Two Democrats have recently joined the race: Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla and bicycling and disability advocate Michael Trimble.
Other Democrats have hinted at a run, like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, or have had their names routinely suggested as potential candidates, like Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, or Sen. Betsy Johnson. But Kotek is the first big-name Democratic candidate to declare a run.
“Oregonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind," said Kotek in the press release. "We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state."
Kotek has historically found support in the state's public employee unions and progressive donors, and has championed affordable housing measures, labor rights bills, and environmental reforms at the state capitol.
But her political decisions haven't always pleased progressive Oregonians. During the 2020 legislative session, Kotek received criticism from Oregon Democrats for agreeing to give Republican legislators veto power over the state's current redistricting process in exchange for their pledge to not block her legislative agenda. Kotek also received flak for calling on former state Rep. Diego Hernandez to step down after harassment allegations against him emerged, with some state Democrats calling it a premature indictment.
Kotek pledged Wednesday: “I will bring people together for a campaign that will inspire all Oregonians to reach for a better future for everyone.”