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

Betsy Johnson will end her 20-year career in the state Legislature on Wednesday to focus all her attention on her non-affiliated run for governor. 

Johnson, who left the Democratic Party in October to launch her campaign, said in a video shared Tuesday that she would resign as state senator to ensure her constituents had someone fully dedicated to representing them.  

“Northwest Oregon deserves a full-time senator, and running for governor is a full-time job,” Johnson said.

Johnson, of Scappoose, doesn’t have a primary in May and is free to spend the next 11 months making her pitch to general election voters. She has to obtain about 24,000 signatures from Oregon voters by Aug. 30 to make it to the November ballot. She is running as a non-affiliated candidate and not as part of the Independent Party of Oregon.

So far, she has focused on raising money, and she’s outpacing all other candidates. As of Nov. 23, the most recent date on her campaign finance reports, she had $2.4 million in her campaign bank account, thanks in large part to donations from Oregon business leaders. Only former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, now a Yamhill farmer seeking the Democratic nomination, came close.  

If she hadn’t opted to step down, Johnson would have begun the legislative session in February with much less power than she’s accustomed to wielding. Senate President Peter Courtney stripped her of her role as co-chair of the powerful Joint Ways and Means Committee, which crafts the state budget, after she left the Democratic Party. 

Although Johnson is now an unaffiliated voter, her appointed replacement will be a Democrat. State law requires appointees to the Legislature be from the same party that the departing legislator belonged to when elected. 

Johnson urged the Democratic precinct committee officials and county commissioners who will appoint her replacement to choose someone without political ambitions.

“I hope the party officials and county commissioners who select my replacement will do the wise thing and choose someone who is dedicated 100% to serving and service, and not to the politics of running for election next year,” she said. 

Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, announced her plans to run for the Senate as soon as Johnson said she would run for governor.

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.