Image for Oregonian Shines Light on Two Misleading Ads

Drazan, Kotek Run Ads Featuring Dubious Claims

As election day nears, campaign ads grow more frequent and often less accurate. The Oregonian’s Jamie Goldberg, who is covering Oregon’s hotly contest gubernatorial campaign, has flagged two such TV ads – one by Republican Christine Drazan and one by Democrat Tina Kotek – that fall short on the veracity meter.

Kotek is airing an ad claiming Drazan has “ties to a far-right paramilitary network”. Kotek attributes the claim to the Institute for Research & Education for Human Rights (IREHR), which is dedicated to combat white nationalism. Goldberg reported the Institute’s website doesn’t contain the claim cited by Kotek. A review of its website shows numerous stories about federal and state candidates, but nothing that features Drazan.

“(Kotek) has resorted to outright lying about Christine Drazan because she is about to make history as the first Democrat to lose the governor’s office in nearly 40 years,” John Burke, a spokesperson for Drazan, said in an email to Goldberg. “Christine Drazan will not be distracted by these weak attempts at character assassination by a desperate politician who is trailing every single public poll.”

Drazan is airing an ad featuring a female narrator who claims Kotek used her power as House Speaker to block an investigation in sexual abuse in the legislature.  Goldberg wrote, “Even by the traditionally loosened standards for political ads, that assertion is untrue, according to independent investigations and news reports.”

The ad is based on a 2018 KGW report about sexual harassment allegations against former Republican Senator Jeff Kruse. At the time, Kotek said the matter was for the Senate to address. “This ad is an insult to Oregon voters,” Kotek said in a statement to Goldberg. “I have had my own personal experiences with workplace harassment, and I have spent my career fighting to protect workers. As Speaker, I did everything in my power to help women who came forward and make the Capitol a safe and welcoming place for everyone. Representative Drazan should be ashamed of this false attack ad.”

Polling indicates Drazan and Kotek are running neck-and-neck heading into the final month before the November election. With vote-by-mail, Oregon voters can begin casting their ballots as early as the next two weeks.

Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson’s campaign appears to have stalled at a distant third. Poll results were enough to persuade Nike founder Phil Knight to hedge his bets and contribute $1 million to Drazan’s campaign. Knight has contributed more than $2 million to Johnson.

Gubernatorial debates haven’t produced any revelations, just reinforced the core arguments by each of the three leading candidates. Drazan says it’s time for new leadership, Johnson insists Drazan and Kotek are too extreme and Kotek brands her two opponents as right-wing.

The airwaves also are full of ads in the hotly contested races for the Fifth and Sixth District congressional seats. Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner have posted attack ads, each the blaming the other for being too politically extreme for the Fifth District stretching from Bend to the edges of Portland. Democrat Andrea Salinas and Republican Mike Erickson have done the same in their Sixth District campaigns.

Ads backing Salinas have claimed Erickson paid for an abortion for a girlfriend and was arrested for drunk driving and drug possession. Erickson has filed a lawsuit disputing he was charged with drug possession. Erickson is running an ad claiming Salinas has been a DC lobbyist and supports defunding the police. Salinas responded with an ad noting her father was a policeman and as a state legislator she voted for funding increases for law enforcement.

Goldberg has been deputy politics editor at The Oregonian since April. Before that, she was the breaking news editor and a business reporter at the newspaper. She joined the staff in 2013 to cover soccer and later reported on the Portland Trail Blazers and the NBA. Goldberg did a political reporting internship in Washington, DC for the Los Angeles Times.