State Senator Betsy Johnson in the Banks BBQ Parade on Sunday, August 22, 2021. Photo: Chas Hundley

State Senator Betsy Johnson, a Democrat who serves the northwest corner of Oregon in the state legislature, including Gales Creek and Banks, will run for governor under no party’s banner in 2022, Johnson said in an email to supporters. 

In the email, sent Thursday afternoon and obtained by this publication, Johnson said that Oregonians were “eager” for new leadership. 

“But having to choose between another left-wing liberal promising more of the same or a right-wing Trump apologist – is no choice at all,” Johnson wrote. “Oregonians deserve better than the excesses and nonsense of the extreme left and radical right.”

Noting her belief that sensible solutions are found in the middle, Johnson said that she decided to run for governor “unaffiliated with any party and loyal only to the people of Oregon.”

Johnson, a powerful state senator serving Senate District 16, is known for bucking the party line and voting with Republicans on many votes. She has been rumored to run for governor for some time, Willamette Week reported June 2, 2021.

Johnson is known for speaking bluntly, and her email was no less than her usual style.

The Senator—and now gubernatorial candidate—littered her email with terms that will likely be repeated throughout her campaign. 

No-nonsense leader. Backbone. Partisan excesses. 

Johnson also quoted Tom McCall, Oregon’s most popular governor also known for being a political maverick, but didn’t quite come to the point of comparing herself to the popular statesman. 

“As Governor,” Johnson wrote, “I will force the two parties to work together to put Oregon ahead of narrow partisan politics."

Johnson said that her campaign would be formally launched after January 1, but that she would begin fundraising and building her campaign staff in the meantime.

Because Johnson is running unaffiliated, she can skip the primary election, but to get on the general election ballot for November 8, 2022, Johnson will have to navigate a little-used signature gathering process. 

After filing paperwork with the Oregon Secretary of State, Johnson will have until August 16 to gather 23,744 signatures, equal to 1% of the vote in the 2020 general election in Oregon.

Johnson said that she would give up her registration in Oregon’s Democratic Party by the spring of 2022, citing Oregon law, but that her values wouldn’t change.

“I was raised in a moderate Republican family and became a Democrat because the Republican Party had moved too far to the right. For twenty years, I’ve been an independent-minded, pro-choice, pro-jobs Democrat proudly serving the people of Northwest Oregon. This is who I am,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson’s announcement had immediate impacts on the political landscape. 

That same day, State Representative Suzanne Weber, who represents House District 32, which—until newly passed legislative maps become effective—includes Banks and Gales Creek announced she would run for Johnson’s seat in the State Senate in 2022. 

Johnson was also endorsed by Banks City Councilor Marsha Kirk.

"I am fully supporting and backing Betsy Johnson," Kirk said in a message to the Banks Post.

Johnson joins a large field of candidates for governor, though the other candidates will first have to slug it out in May for their party’s nomination before advancing to the general election in November 2022. 

On the left, seven candidates have either filed to run for Oregon’s top office, or said they plan to file. 

Among them are Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, House Speaker Tina Kotek, Treasurer Tobias Read, and several others. Former New York Times columnist—also of Yamhill Co.—Nicholas Kristof is increasingly likely to seek the Democratic Party nomination, recently forming an exploratory committee and quitting his job at the Times. 

On the right, Bud Pierce, 2016’s Republican Party gubernatorial nominee, has filed to run again, joined by Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten, and more.