Tina Kotek wins over potential rival by embracing campaign finance changes

Then-candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Tina Kotek speaks to supporters during an election night at Revolution Hall on May 17, 2022 in Portland, Ore.

Jonathan Levinson/OPB

As she scrambles to lock in votes in a tight race for governor, Tina Kotek has removed a notable potential hurdle.

In private talks last week, Kotek pledged to use her position to advocate for some specific campaign finance regulations if elected governor. With that pledge – and a newly added political platform on its website – a notable contender for leftist votes has now quit.

Nathalie Paravicini, a naturopathic doctor running for governor under the banners of the Oregon Progressive Party and the Pacific Green Party, filed a withdrawal form on Friday, the last day she could be withdrawn from the November ballot.

Paravicini told the OPB on Wednesday that personal reasons contributed to the move, but she also took the plunge after being assured that Kotek would pursue Paravicini’s core issue: enacting campaign finance regulations.

Oregon is one of the few states that imposes no limits on the amount and spending of political campaigns, and has seen racing become increasingly expensive as a result. While voters amended the state constitution to explicitly allow campaign finance limits in 2020, lawmakers have failed to enact any and efforts to put a proposal on the ballot this year have failed.

With Kotek committed to its boundaries, “I felt my goal had been achieved,” Paravicini said. “I want to clarify that I did not withdraw because I am afraid of being a spoiler.”

Still, Paravicini’s exit is a likely boon for Kotek, which could attract many votes that Paravicini would otherwise have won.

Those votes could prove vital in what looks set to be a close three-woman contest. In a 2020 run for secretary of state as the candidate for the Pacific Green and the Oregon Progressive Party, Paravicini won 3.6% of the vote.

In addition to Kotek, this year’s race features Republican Christine Drazan, a former State House Minority Leader, and Betsy Johnson, a former Democratic state senator who is running as an unaffiliated candidate. Limited polls suggest the race could be extremely close, with Republicans viewing the contest as their best chance in decades to reclaim the governorship.

Due to the unprecedented and unpredictable nature of the election, Paravicini said she received repeated requests from Democrats to step down and endorse Kotek instead. Kotek’s campaign contacted advocacy group Honest Elections Oregon to set up a meeting and last week committed to a series of campaign funding limits that Kotek would support as governor.

“Over the past few weeks, Tina has met with advocates and Nathalie Paravicini to continue to discuss campaign finance reform,” said Katie Wertheimer, spokeswoman for Kotek. “Tina asked Nathalie to consider supporting her campaign as they found a lot of common ground.”

Limits, but what will they be?

Limits Kotek agreed to share similarities with a proposal that Honest Election Organizers and others hope to present to voters in 2024. This effort, like a similar proposal that died this year, would impose strict limits on the number of individuals and political committees. could donate to candidates and causes.

But Kotek’s explicit commitments on its campaign website are vague. Although she voices support for specific caps for individual political donors — $2,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for legislative candidates — Kotek does not indicate the limits that she would support for political action committees that give a lot in Oregon politics.

Such limits on PAC donations are particularly sensitive, as they help dictate the weight of special interest groups in elections. Democrats, who benefit from millions in donations from labor groups most election cycles, frequently argue that unions should have higher donation limits than other PACs because they raise their money from many small member donations. individual members of the union.

Kotek suggests on its website that these “small donor” PACs should face higher limits than committees run by corporations or advocacy groups related to issues such as gun rights or environmental protection. environment, but does not offer details. His campaign also did not provide details when asked. Paravicini says Kotek accepted a proposal that would allow small donor committees to donate 10 times the limit of many other PACs.

Like other Oregon Democrats in competitive statewide contests, Kotek has broad union support this year. Service Employees International Union Local 503, the Oregon Education Association, and the Oregon Nurses Association are all among its biggest donors. Its largest donor is the National Democratic Governors Association, which contributed nearly $1.9 million of the $8.6 million it raised.

Drazan, meanwhile, said he has raised more than $7.5 million, including about $1.6 million from the Republican Governors Association. Other major donors to the Republican candidate include companies in the lumber and construction industries.

Johnson, who garnered more than 37,500 signatures to earn his place on the ballot, said he raised more than $11 million during the election cycle. Its biggest donors are well-known billionaires Phil Knight and Tim Boyle, who donated $1.75 million and $341,000, respectively. The lumber industry and heavy equipment companies are also big supporters.

Kotek has long said she supports limits on political donations in a state that has had none for decades. But she hadn’t put them at the center of a campaign that instead focused on housing, climate change, abortion access and other issues. During Kotek’s time as House Speaker, Democrats once passed contribution limits across the chamber, only to see them die in the Senate.

Jason Kafoury, a member of Honest Elections Oregon, said Wednesday that Kotek agreed not to just support campaign finance limits. He said the campaign will hold a forum on the topic later this month and will also run campaign announcements on the issue.

“We wanted to make sure campaign finance reform had a voice in this election,” Kafoury said. “We are very pleased that Tina Kotek has committed to making this a priority.

The deal reached last week has parallels to the 2018 gubernatorial race, when Governor Kate Brown convinced that year’s Independent Party candidate Patrick Starnes to step down and endorse him with a pledge to support campaign finance reform. It was too late for Starnes to be removed from the ballot, but Brown took victory in what initially looked like a close race.

In the years since, Brown has supported Measure 107, the 2020 ballot proposal that ensured campaign limits are allowed under the state constitution, but has not otherwise advanced the issue.

Paravicini said Wednesday that although she is now out of the running, she will be watching Kotek closely to keep her promise.

“I’ll hold her back,” she said. “I’m not afraid to run again and spoil campaigns in the future.”

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