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Democrat Tina Kotek declares victory, pledges to work on homelessness as Oregon governor

PORTLAND — A beaming Tina Kotek, hand-in-hand with her wife, skipped down a set of concrete steps lined with supporters at Portland’s waterfront Thursday morning to claim victory in the race for Oregon governor. 

The Associated Press hasn’t yet called the race, but Kotek, a Democrat and former speaker of the Oregon House, led Republican Christine Drazan by almost 55,000 votes as of midday Thursday. At least 200,000 ballots remain to be counted, and an unknown number of additional ballots that were postmarked by Election Day will be counted if they arrive at county election offices by next Tuesday.

The Oregonian/OregonLive and Oregon Public Broadcasting both called the race for Kotek on Wednesday, and she claimed victory Wednesday evening after her lead continued to grow. During a press conference flanked by supporters Thursday, she pledged to immediately get to work on her transition. 

“I am honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve, and I will strive every day to be a force for positive change in our state,” Kotek said. “Now the election is over, and the really hard work begins.”

Kotek said she spoke Thursday morning with Drazan and Betsy Johnson, a nonaffiliated candidate and former Democratic state senator who captured about 9% of the vote, and described the conversations as “cordial.” 

“I commend them for their public service and their hard-fought campaigns,” she said. “I let them know that I’m going to focus on the problems that all three of us agree need fixing.”

Johnson conceded Tuesday after preliminary results were announced. 

On Thursday, Drazan’s campaign spokesman didn’t respond to a call or email asking about Kotek’s conversation, but the campaign released a statement from Drazan declining to concede. Online, Drazan supporters have flooded the Twitter “#orpol” hashtag with baseless claims of election fraud.

“With several hundred thousand ballots yet to be counted, we continue to exercise patience as we await additional clarity regarding the final outcome of this race,” the statement said. “Oregonians should have confidence that their votes will be counted as our county clerks continue their diligent work.”

Kotek, meanwhile, said the Oregonian’s projection and her own team’s analysis of votes made it clear that more Oregon voters picked her. The two news outlets said they were calling the race based on the tens of thousands of outstanding ballots in Multnomah County, where 70% of those counted have been for Kotek.

With about 60 days before Oregon’s next governor takes office, Kotek said it was important to get to work. 

Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown congratulated Kotek in a tweet, calling her an advocate for working families who will fight to ensure every Oregonian has a chance at a better future. 

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