According to Decision Desk HQ, Tina Kotek is expected to win the Oregon gubernatorial race, joining Maura Healey in Massachusetts as the only other lesbian governor ever elected in the country.
Healey and Kotek were among a record number of LGBTQ+ political candidates to win the primary, according to the Victory Fund, which works to elect LGBTQ+ officials. This year also marked the first time LGBTQ+ candidates ran in all 50 states.
Kotek and Healey’s political careers had already broken new ground. Healey, now the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts, was elected the country’s first gay state attorney general in 2014. In Oregon, Kotek was the first lesbian statehouse speaker since her 2013 election.
While Healey and Kotek both won in the blue states, they faced different odds. Healey cruised to victory against his Trump-backed opponent and will return leadership of the state to Democrats after Republican Gov. Charlie Baker declined to run for re-election. Kotek ran against a competitive Republican in a race close enough to motivate national Democrats, including President Joe Biden, to make public appearances and offer endorsements. The race also included a third-party candidate, also with years of experience in the state legislature, with surprising influence. With her victory, Kotek will also continue the 40-year streak of Democratic-only governor of the state.
In Oregon, Kotek and her Republican opponent, Christine Drazan, ran on largely similar platforms: solving the state’s homelessness and housing problems, tackling income and wage inequalities, suppressing wildfires, and improving unemployment rates. graduation from state schools. But Kotek took it upon herself to differentiate herself from Drazan on abortion access — most Oregon voters support the procedure — and accused Drazan, who hasn’t been endorsed by Trump, of being a “MAGA Republican” hidden.
During the race, Kotek’s campaign accused Drazan of planning to ban abortion in the state if elected, which Drazan, who was endorsed by Oregon Right to Life, refuted, indicating the procedure was declared a right under the state constitution in the 1980s.
However, during the first televised Republican primary debate for state governor in April — ahead of his earlier statements — Drazan made a different pledge: “I stand up for life. And I will absolutely sign legislation that comes to my desk,” he said.
Kotek declared victory in the race on Thursday before the winner was projected by the Associated Press or Decision Desk headquarters, prompting Drazan to later request a count of all votes.
Kotek’s challenge, and eventual victory, against Drazan also marks the end of the country’s first known three-way competitive race. Experts previously told The 19th that the historic race exemplifies what research has shown for years: Women in politics and women voters are not a monolith, even on vital issues like abortion access.
In Massachusetts, Healey increased tax credits for dependent households, tying economic development to renewable energy and achieving net zero emissions by 2030, and increased funding for infrastructure and housing. She occasionally referred to his time as a point guard at Harvard as part of a “teamwork” message and leaned into her experiences of him as state attorney general. His opponent, former state representative Geoff Diehl, has sought to relax COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools, adopting “parental rights” rules for schools seen in other states and using a flat-rate income tax to improve economic development.
Sean Meloy, vice chair of policy programs at the Victory Fund, said candidates the organization works with across the country are consistently discouraged from seeking office that has never been occupied by an LGBTQ+ person, often by critics who consider themselves LGBTQ+ allies. The idea is that since it’s never happened before, it can’t happen now.
“That’s why we need more LGBTQ people to step up and run and win so we can continue to break this falsehood,” she said.
This story was originally published on November 11, 2022 by The 19th.