In Oregon’s gubernatorial race, Phil Knight, who is the Nike co-founder, is backing a second candidate after donating several million dollars to independent candidate Betsy Johnson. While his last campaign donation in early September was $3.75 million to Johnson, Knight also made a $1 million contribution to Republican Christine Drazan recently.
Drazan and former state Rep. Tina Kotek, the Democratic nominee, have been neck and neck in the polls since then, while Johnson lags in third place. According to the polling average from ‘FiveThirtyEight,’ Drazan is nearly 2 points ahead of Kotek. The Cook Political Report, which changed the rating in September from “leans Democrat,” the race is considered a “toss-up,” still within the margin of error.
To fund Kotek’s campaign, National Democratic organizations have been stepping up. Currently, the Oregon native, Knight is the 27th richest person in the world and worth an estimated $35.2 billion. He backed Oregon’s Republican gubernatorial hopeful Knute Buehler in 2018, who lost to incumbent Gov. Kate Brown. He also spent heavily in 2009 to defeat ballot measures that would have increased taxes on some corporations and high-earning individuals, reported the Washington Examiner.
Since 1987, there hasn’t been a Republican governor of Oregon. This pickup opportunity for the GOP comes amid Brown’s status as one of the least popular governors in the country. Siphoning votes away from Kotek and Drazan, Johnson is polling around 19.5%.
Kotek was the House speaker at the time Drazan was the minority leader of the Oregon House Republicans who is now a centrist Republican.