With Nicholas Kristof out of the Democratic primary for governor, where will his supporters go?
When the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the disqualification of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nicholas Kristof on Feb. 17, it marked a reset for the May primary.
The apparent beneficiary of Kristof’s political demise: Likely frontrunner, former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), who no longer faces a well-funded insurgent aggressively criticizing the state’s performance under her leadership .
Even before the ink was dry on the court’s decision, however, Kotek had a harder time than expected securing approval from a key union.
Delegates from the Oregon Education Association met remotely on Feb. 19, but unlike the Service Employees International Union, which came out strongly for Kotek last month, teachers struggled to make a choice.
No candidate secured a majority on the first ballot, an OAS spokesperson says, sending the vote to a runoff for the first time since 2006. In the end, Kotek secured 51% of the vote .
Now, she and state treasurer Tobias Read will compete for party loyalists and Kristof supporters.
An obvious question is where Kristof’s supporters will land.
Although most of the $2.75 million the former reporter has raised comes from out of state, Kristof has secured contributions from more than 6,500 Oregonians, far more than one or the other of his adversaries.
We asked some of them: What now?
Dan Clay: The president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 made an early and bold statement in November, when his union’s political action committee gave Kristof its largest donation ever ($75,000). . Clay makes no effort to hide his feelings about Kristof’s disqualification.
“Last week’s decision was a powerful defense of establishment politics,” Clay said. “The only winners are the outdated ideas of the status quo on which Oregon’s problems will continue to rest comfortably. The real losers here are Oregonians, who will once again have only politics as usual as an option on their ballot.
Clay adds that the union is still debating whether to seek reimbursement of its contribution. “Neither UFCW 555 nor Mr. Kristof think this calls for quick decisions made in the heat of the moment,” he said.
Glen Van Peski: Van Peski is a Bend resident and the founder and president of Gossamer Gear, which makes hiking gear. His contribution ($10,000) was among Kristof’s largest from an Oregon resident.
“I changed my party registration [from Republican] so I could vote for Nick in the primary, but I’m going to change it now,” Van Peski says. “Nick is a hiking buddy, and although we have different opinions in many areas, maybe even in most areas, I have found him over the years determined to make the world a better place.”
Van Peski says he’s not looking to get his money back. “If I trust Nick for the future of Oregon,” he says, “I trust him for my contribution.”
Peter Bragdon: A longtime Democratic insider, former chief of staff to Gov. Ted Kulongoski and now general counsel for Columbia Sportswear, Bragdon was an early backer for Kristof ($5,340).
“If I hadn’t flown home at that time, I would have donated to Betsy [Johnson] within minutes of reading the Supreme Court’s opinion,” Bragdon said. “She has been a friend of the family for as long as I can remember and someone I have worked closely with over the years. I have now contributed to her.
Bragdon says Kristof and Johnson have similar appeal: “They’re obviously very different in their views, but I’m not looking for someone I agree with all or most of the time. I’m looking for a fresh approach to governorship and someone I can trust in their judgment.
John Russell: Another longtime Democratic insider, downtown Portland real estate investor Russell, currently holds one of the state’s most coveted governorships: a seat on the Oregon Board of Trustees. Russell was one of the few non-reporters at Kristof’s post-decision press conference last week. He also donated office space to the candidate for a total contribution of $6,052.
“Kristof appealed to me because he’s the only candidate who gave me hope for a positive future for Oregon,” Russell says. “I would absolutely love for him to run again. I think he was qualified to be on the ballot and to be a dominant figure in Oregon politics.
Unlike other Kristof supporters, Russell plans to back a Democrat in the May primary — he just won’t say which one.