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Republican Christine Drazan (left), unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson (center) and Democrat Tina Kotek (right) sharply disagree on gun regulation, vaccine mandates and the future of health care, based on their responses to Oregon Public Broadcasting questions to the three leading Oregon gubernatorial candidates.

Polling Predicts Photo-Finish Win for Drazan or Kotek

As it has done throughout the campaign, Oregon Public Broadcasting asked Republican Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson to comment on existing and future gun legislation, vaccine mandates and health care policy. Unsurprisingly, the three leading gubernatorial candidates sharply disagree.

Kotek favors tightening gun regulations, Drazan says Oregon already has the strictest gun laws in the nation and Johnson has moved off her earlier position to support some form of background checks, which she opposed while serving in the legislature. Oregonians will vote on Measure 114 that would require safety training, a background check and a fee to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm. The measure also would outlaw ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

Kotek supports narrowing the grounds for exemption from school vaccine requirements. Drazan and Johnson both support broader exemptions for school vaccination requirements. They also both oppose mandatory COVID vaccinations for children to attend school.

Kotek supports Measure 111 that would amend the Oregon Constitution to assert an individual right to affordable health care. Drazan opposes Measure 111, pointing to the potential budgetary impact of a constitutional health care mandate. Johnson says she opposes government-run health care but promised to implement the mandate if Oregonians approve it and implementation is “financially feasible”. Oregon would be the first state to put affordable health care into a constitution.

On post-pandemic action, Drazan says she would “trust Oregonians to talk to their medical providers and respond to current conditions to determine the best approach for themselves and their family.” Johnson would give parents and businesses greater say on what, if any, actions the state should take. Kotek says she would focus on access to updated vaccines and testing.

The candidates have disagreed sharply over their respective support for nurses and for hospitals facing a financial crunch. Their exchanges reflect their differing political support. Kotek has sided with the Oregon Nurses Association while Drazan and Johnson have aligned with views of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

“Many of the hospitals passed on taking [pandemic aid] because of the strings including labor requirements that didn’t exist previously,” Johnson said in a debate aired on KTZV in Bend. “We need to strengthen our health care system all across and not vilify their CEOs and downgrade and diminish their work.”

“We don’t have a nurse shortage in Oregon,” Kotek said in the debate. “We have nurses who don’t want to go back to work at hospitals that have treated them poorly, not paid them well and continued to pay their CEOs millions and millions of dollars.”

“You cannot erode the hospital system itself and then act like labor will have somewhere to serve Oregonians,” Drazan said. “It’s just not realistic.”

Polling sh0ws the governor’s race has narrowed to a contest between Christine Drazan and Tina Kotek with Betsy Johnson appearing to draw more support away from Kotek.

The most recent polling shows it is a photo-finish horserace between Drazan and Kotek, with Johnson trailing in third. Drazan’s campaign received a boost from a $1 million contribution by Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Kotek received a boost when President Biden campaigned for her in Portland over the weekend.