Republican gubernatorial nominee and Canby-area resident Christine Drazan, who holds a slight lead over Democratic opponent Tina Kotek in several polls heading into Election Day, made her closing argument at her final stop in a globetrotting campaign Monday night at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds.
Several hundred supporters and media personnel gathered at the Ely Arena for the stop, in which Drazan, her husband, Dan Drazan; and Representative Shelly Boshart Davis, her close ally in the Legislature and campaign chair, spoke on the eve of one of the most significant midterm elections in Oregon history.
It is also one of the first elections in a decade in which Republicans are expected to gain seats in the Oregon Legislature, and in which GOP candidates have strong odds to win the governor’s mansion and more than one congressional district in the normally reliably blue state.
If Drazan wins, she would be the first Republican woman governor in state history, and the first conservative candidate to win the office since Vic Aityeh 40 years ago.
Indeed, in introduction, Boshart Davis noted that the last year Oregon had a Republican governor was when the first Top Gun movie was in theaters (Drazan had previously entered Ely to theme music from the film and its 2022 follow-up, Top Gun: Maverick).
“I say 2022 is the year of the sequel,” Boshart Davis said, to cheers from the crowd.
In her approximately 10-minute remarks, Drazan repeatedly remarked on her underdog status and potentially historic rise.
She also alluded to Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican candidate who pulled off a similarly surprising upset last year in a state Joe Biden had won by more than 10 points in 2020, and with whom she shared a stage at a large campaign event outside of Aurora three weeks ago.
“When this campaign started a year ago, everyone across the state said, ‘Republicans can’t win in Oregon,'” Drazan said. “Everywhere I went, people said it couldn’t be done. You know what? Tomorrow, we’re going to do it.”
She said she had begun the day with a rally in Klamath Falls, where she grew up, but was “thrilled” to be wrapping things up in her new hometown of Canby.
“It was such a joy to see faces that I know from my childhood and my family,” she said. “But I’m telling you, we raised our kids here in Canby. This is home.”
She elaborated in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters following the event, saying Canby was also where she had gotten her political start.
Drazan previously served on the Canby School District Budget Committee and Clackamas County Planning Commission before winning election to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2018, representing Canby’s House District 39.
She won a second term in 2020 and served two years as House minority leader before stepping down earlier this year to focus on her gubernatorial campaign.
“I am a Canby mom,” she said. “I raised my kids here, and this community was where I started my public life. When I ran for the state Legislature, I had a conversation with my family about whether we wanted to go from being private citizens to a public family.
“That’s where all of this started: here in Canby with my family and my three kids, making the decision to balance out our state’s civic life and stand up for our own community.”
Drazan appealed to voters’ worries about rising crime in Portland and other cities, homelessness, inflation, a growing drug crisis and “getting politics out of the classroom and parents back in.”
She warned that electing Kotek, the progressive former speaker of the House, would equate to “another four years of Kate Brown,” a reference to the term-limited, current Democratic governor, who is among the nation’s least popular, according to polls.
“Tina Kotek and Kate Brown linked arms to drive our state into a ditch,” Drazan said. “It was political agenda after political agenda. As governor, I am committed to improving the quality of life for all Oregonians, whether they voted for me or not, whether they live in a small town or an urban core.”
Polls show Drazan and Kotek in an extremely tight race, with several giving the GOP challenger a slim lead, albeit within the margin of error.
“It’s close because [voters] are defying their own past behaviors,” Drazan told reporters. “It hasn’t been close in the past, but it’s close now because Oregonians are saying, ‘I’m going to do something different.'”
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