In Oregon this fall, for the first time in United States history, a gubernatorial general election will feature three credible female candidates. Democrat Tina Kotek, a North Portlander and longtime Speaker of the Oregon House with impeccable progressive bona fides, faces off against Canby Republican Christine Drazan, who most recently was Kotek’s foil in Salem as the minority party’s leader in the Oregon House. And they’ll both have to contend with the blue-dog Democrat turned nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, a former state senator from Scappoose who has been pulling in vast sums of money from some of the state’s deepest-pocketed donors.
In honor of the historic nature of the race, we’re taking a look at where each candidate stands on four pieces of Oregon legislation that are of historic importance to and have been championed by women: the Reproductive Health Equity Act (HB 3391) which requires insurance plans to cover abortions with no out-of-pocket costs; the FAMLI Equity Act (HB 2005), which requires employers to provide paid family and medical leave; the Student Success Act (HB 3427) which raises about $1 billion for public schools annually via a gross receipts tax on businesses; and the Menstrual Dignity Act (HB 3294), which requires public schools to offer free period products to all students.
Reproductive Health Equity Act
Drazan: Did Not Vote. Drazan was not yet a member of the Oregon House when this passed in 2017. But she greeted news of the US Supreme Court’s striking down of Roe v. Wade in June with a tweet that read “Life wins!” She’s said she considers Oregon’s laws on abortion to be “extreme” and that as governor she’d veto legislation that would “push Oregon further outside the mainstream.” Her key endorsements include one from Oregon Right to Life.
Johnson: Aye. Johnson is often categorized as a conservative Democrat, given her general antipathy towards raising taxes on business, her wariness of climate change legislation, and her pro-gun stance. But on abortion, she’s squarely in the Democratic mainstream and has called abortion “a fundamental right.”
Kotek: Aye. Kotek played a key role in the passage of this legislation, which was hailed as helping to cement Oregon’s reputation as having some of the country’s strongest abortion rights laws. Her campaign has continued to highlight her commitment to abortion access and reproductive rights, and she’s promised to help women from other states access the care they might need in Oregon, should she be elected. She’s been endorsed by the Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon.
FAMLI Equity Act
Drazan: Aye. Drazan broke with the most conservative members of her caucus to vote in favor of this bill in 2019. She has since made it clear that she’s been increasingly annoyed with the state’s delayed rollout of paid family leave, making it part of her pitch to voters to prune bureaucracy and red tape at the state level if elected.
Johnson: Aye. Johnson voted with her (now former) party for this plan, but she hasn’t always been a steadfast supporter. In 2007, she was one of four state Senate Democrats who refused to vote yes on a similar proposal, fearing that it would impose too big of a burden on employers. She says she voted yes 12 years later because she was persuaded that it was “a worthy goal to allow parents the ability to both work and care for their families,” though like the other candidates, she dings the state for the program’s lags.
Kotek: Aye. Perhaps more than any other candidate, Kotek has had to answer for this program’s lackadaisical rollout (it’s months behind schedule) because she was so closely associated with the bill’s passage. She’s responded by calling for changes in leadership at the agency which administers the program.
Student Success Act
Drazan: Nay. Republicans in Oregon are generally suspicious of new taxes, and the Student Success Act proved to be no exception for Drazan in 2019, though she has said she’s committed to “supporting students and parents” should she win the election. (Notice that she’s not mentioning teachers, whose union is likely to be among Kotek’s biggest supporters.) Drazan has said Oregon’s current educational policies are filled with “misplaced priorities and agendas.”
Johnson: Aye. Johnson struggled with this vote. Her yes vote came after plenty of pressure from her own party, and it came at a price: Johnson insisted that tweaks be made to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System in exchange for her vote. Now, Johnson says her twitchiness about the bill was merited, and that as governor, she’d seek to “reform and reduce” the corporate activity tax in the bill.
Kotek: Aye. Ever since the mid-1990s when Oregon shifted the lion’s share of the responsibility for public school funding to the state, Democrats have been looking for ways to raise more money for schools. (See: many, many failed attempts at a sales tax.) This bill is a signature achievement of Kotek’s tenure as Speaker, and while it isn’t the full-throated tax reform of Democratic dreams, it did provide a more stable source of funding than Oregon public schools had seen in years.
Menstrual Dignity Act
Drazan: Aye. Drazan’s 2021 vote for the Menstrual Dignity Act became a bit of a sticking point in the Republican primary, after commentator and opponent Bridget Barton criticized the move, because the bill ultimately required period products to be placed in both boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. Drazan shot back that she had voted to “provide underprivileged girls with feminine products” but that a “warped and radical progressive agenda” had twisted the bill’s intent.
Johnson: Aye. Johnson voted in favor of this bill but has since deemed it a “horrible idea.” Her claim: the bill was hard to track, because debate in Salem didn’t include mention of placing tampons and other menstrual supplies into boys’ bathrooms.
Kotek: Aye. When it went through the Oregon House, this bill wasn’t controversial at all, passing with unanimous support from both parties. Supporting it was surely an easy call for Kotek, whose platform calls for “comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education.”