Oregon primary elections for governor, Congress, other races are set

Candidates watch on the Oregon House floor as Secretary of State Shemia Fagan prepares to announce the end of filing for the 2022 primary election. (Ron Cooper/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

SALEM – As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 390 candidates filed to get on primary ballots for state or district races, with election workers continuing to process campaign forms. 

At least 100 candidates and their families and campaign advisers crowded the Oregon House chamber on Tuesday evening, watching their names float across a set of three screens and listening to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announce the official beginning of the 2022 primary. 

“For those of you who are first-time candidates, you are about to embark on the strangest job interview you have ever had,” Fagan said. 

Fagan also urged candidates to stand up for Oregon’s electoral system, reject misinformation about elections and avoid undermining election workers. As she spoke, though, many in the House chamber turned their attention to private conversations, with some commenting that it sounded like a campaign speech. Even with a microphone, Fagan struggled to be heard over the hum of other conversations. 

Individual races could change over the next few days. Candidates have until Friday, March 11, to withdraw, and it’s possible that some filed to run in races where they’re not eligible, in which case they won’t appear on the ballot. Fagan has until March 17 to send a final list of candidates to county clerks to begin printing ballots for the May 17 election. 


A whopping 41 people are running for governor in the first open race since 2002. Democrats have held the governor’s office since 1987. 

While 17 Democrats are running for the seat, many political veterans consider it a two-way race between Tina Kotek and Tobias Read. Kotek, the longtime speaker of the Oregon House from Portland, boosts support from most of the state’s labor unions and fellow legislators. Read, the state treasurer from Beaverton, has positioned himself as a slightly more moderate alternative.

The dream of the ‘90s is alive in the Republican primary for governor, which has no clear frontrunner and has become a Who’s Who of all-but-forgotten figures from the GOP’s past. 

There’s anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore, who was the GOP candidate in 1998, and former state GOP chair Bob Tiernan, who led successful ballot measures on mandatory minimum sentences, pension reform and prison labor in 1994. Bud Pierce, the Salem oncologist who was his party’s nominee in 2016, was one of the first in the race and has raised more than most other Republicans running. 

Pierce, former Rep. Christine Drazan and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam led the pack early on, but revelations that Pulliam and his wife engaged in consensual sexual encounters with other married couples hurt his campaign. With 19 Republicans running, a small plurality of voters can pick the nominee. 

The eventual nominees from both parties will likely face Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state senator from the northwest coast who’s running unaffiliated with either party. Johnson must make it to the ballot by collecting signatures from voters, and she’s hoping to appeal as a middle ground between progressives and conservatives. 

Congressional races

Oregon will gain a seat in Congress for the first time since 1982, and beginning in 2023 the state will send six representatives to the U.S. House. While all six seats are up for election, only three are competitive.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer and Republican Rep. Cliff Bentz are in safe districts and unlikely to face serious challenges in either the primary or general election. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is also up for election for another six-year term this year and faces only token opposition. 

In the 4th Congressional District, in southwest Oregon, retiring Rep. Peter DeFazio and many local Democratic leaders have coalesced around Val Hoyle, current state labor commissioner and former legislator, as DeFazio’s replacement.

She’s the frontrunner in a crowded Democratic primary that also includes Corvallis School Board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, community organizer and attorney Doyle Canning, Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch, children’s author Steve Laible, community organizer and author Jake Matthews, professor John Selker, banker G. Tommy Smith and teacher Joshua Welch. 

Republican Alek Skarlatos, a former Army National Guardsman who unsuccessfully challenged DeFazio in 2020, is unopposed in the GOP primary. 

Democrats technically have an incumbent in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District with Rep. Kurt Schrader, but the most conservative member of the state’s Democratic delegation is unfamiliar to many in the district’s new boundaries.

Schrader’s politics, plus his support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, prompted local Democratic parties in Deschutes and Linn Counties to pledge their support to Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and efforts are afoot in Clackamas County to do the same. 

McLeod-Skinner, a consultant and emergency response coordinator from Terrebonne, aims to use the grassroots support she built during previous runs for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in 2018 and secretary of state in 2020. 

It’s a crowded primary on the Republican side, but two candidates caught the eye of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Jimmy Crumpacker, an investor from Bend, and Lori Chavez-DeRemer, the former mayor of Happy Valley, were named to the organization’s “On the Radar” list of candidates with a shot at flipping a House seat. 

Wilsonville doctor John Di Paola, Bend home restoration worker Madison Oatman and Mulino trucking business owner Laurel Roses are also running for the Republican nomination. 

 Oregon’s newest congressional district garnered 16 candidates, including three current state representatives. Reps. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego; Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn; and Ron Noble, R-Carlton, are all running.

Among Democrats running in the primary is Loretta Smith, former Multnomah County commissioner and longtime Wyden adviser, who entered the race early. Also in the race are Portland health care worker Ricky Barajas, McMinnville research associate Carrick Flynn, Newberg police spokesman Greg Goodwin, Salem physician Kathleen Harder and Steven Cody Reynolds, a frequent candidate from Tualatin who plans to self-fund his campaign with a fortune made in cryptocurrencies.

Along with Noble, Republicans will see one-term Congressman Jim Bunn, who lost his 1996 re-election bid after he divorced his wife to marry a congressional aide; Mike Erickson, a former Congressional hopeful who lost to Schrader in Schrader’s first race; Salem psychologist Angela Plowhead; Dundee Mayor David Russ; Amy Ryan Courser, the 2020 nominee in the 5th District, and Neskowin renewable energy developer Nathan Sandvig. 

Bureau of Labor and Industries 

One statewide race could be decided in the primary. Seven candidates are vying for the nonpartisan job of commissioner of the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, which oversees workers and employers. If any candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in May, they’ll win outright; otherwise, the two who get the most votes will face voters in the November general election.

Former state Rep. Cheri Helt, a Republican restaurant owner from Bend, filed to run Tuesday. Helt served one term in the House from 2019-21, winning election as a moderate Republican in a district that favored Democrats after the implosion of both her Democratic opponent and a candidate from the Working Families Party. 

Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, a Democrat who initially planned to run for governor, and Portland civil rights attorney Christina Stephenson, both Democrats, are other serious contenders. Stephenson boasts endorsements from several labor unions and a number of state legislators. 

Also in the race are Aloha banker Brent Barker, Oregon City trucker Chris Henry and Robert Neuman, who describes himself as a general laborer from Greenhorn. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: [email protected]. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.