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Image: Betsy Johnson
Betsy Johnson speaks at a rally on the steps of the Capitol in Salem, Ore., on Feb. 6, 2020.Alex Milan Tracy / Sipa USA via AP file

Independent governor candidate in Oregon spending big money

Former state Sen. Betsy Johnson has outspent the Republican and Democratic nominees since the primary election by a factor of 61.


Independent candidates rarely make much of an impact in marquee races outside of potentially playing spoiler. But former state Sen. Betsy Johnson is already spending a significant sum on advertising as she looks to split the difference between the state's Republican and Democratic gubernatorial nominees.

Johnson has spent more on ads than any other candidate through Tuesday, per AdImpact, at $3.7 million. By comparison, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek has spent $1.6 million and former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has spent $1.5 million.

But those top-line numbers don't tell the whole story, virtually all that Republican and Democratic spending happened during competitive primaries. Since primary day, Johnson has spent $1.6 million on ads while Drazan and Kotek spent under $13,000 each.

Johnson spent virtually all of her political life as a Democrat, but announced her gubernatorial bid as an independent, a move that cast new intrigue onto a race in a state President Biden won by 16% points.

It's not surprising that Kotek and Drazan haven't spent much on ads since the primary — competitive primaries drain significant resources and campaigns regularly spend the summer months, when voters are less engaged, raising resources for the post Labor Day sprint.

But the big spending gap shows that Johnson could play a unique role in the coming months, one that may change the path to victory in November.