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Wedge issues in 2022 Oregon governor’s race: Gun control

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Oregon Capital Bureau

The three candidates for governor can offer nuanced positions on major issues during their debates in the final weeks of the race that culminated with the Nov. 8 election.

Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and non-affiliated candidate Betsy Johnson can rewind prior battles over issues, having all spent time in the Oregon Legislature.

Three issues have offered key dividing lines between the trio of women. Each issue is a sharp wedge used to place one of the candidates apart from the other two.

Abortion, gun control, and the Democrats’ control of much of state government leave two candidates divided from one other.

Among the issues, gun control is unique because the debate is accompanied by a state ballot measure on the issue, Measure 114. Along with laying out their positions on firearms, they can also be asked a simple up or down question.

Will you vote for Measure 114?

With multiple forecasts calling the race for governor a “toss-up,” which wedge dominates voters’ choice of a candidate could be the decisive factor in winning the governorship in 2023.

Today, a look at gun control and its unique pairing with a specific initiative on the same ballot that voters will mark their choice for governor.


Kotek supports the Measure 114 gun control initiative.

Drazan and Johnson oppose Measure 114.


Measure 114 qualified for the November ballot after a successful signature-gathering campaign by gun control advocates.

If approved, state law would require that before a firearm is handed over to a buyer, the person goes through a background check, has been through gun safety training and receives a permit to own the firearm.

The measure would require law enforcement agencies to maintain a firearms database. It would outlaw the sale of magazines for ammunition that hold more than 10 rounds.

It’s one of the strictest of gun-control ballot measures going before voters in 2022.

Public opinion:

A poll released by DHM Research in early October that was commissioned by the Oregonian newspaper, said 51% of those surveyed supported Measure 114, with 37% opposed and the remainder undecided. 

The governor’s election:

The debate over gun control comes as Oregon made international news as the scene of a multiple-victim shooting at a Bend shopping area on Aug. 28.

The 20-year-old gunman fired more than 100 rounds from an AR-15-style semi automatic rifle, killing two people in a supermarket before shooting himself dead as police closed in.

It’s not Oregon’s first experience with the nationwide phenomenon of mass shootings.

In 2015, a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. 

During the governor’s debate in Bend on Sept. 27, Drazan said the shooting at the mall was “an absolute tragedy” and the gunman was someone facing “extreme mental health challenges.”

But the Republican nominee said she would be a no vote on Measure 114, in keeping with her record supporting gun owner rights.

“More gun laws will not prevent every single tragedy from happening,” Drazan said.

Drazan has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association for her votes on gun issues while in the Oregon House. She was the leader of the minority-party Republicans in the chamber until deciding to resign to run for governor. 

Johnson, who served 20 years in the Legislature as a Democrat, said she would vote no as well. 

The measure would create a bureaucratic burden for smaller law enforcement agencies, particularly in rural areas, Johnson argued.  

While opposing Measure 114, Johnson said her position on the issue of gun control was not as fulsome as Drazan’s.

Johnson collects guns with her husband, including a highly-regulated federal license to own an automatic weapon, which can fire all of the bullets in a clip with one pull of the trigger. Rolling Stone magazine reported earlier this year that the weapon is a MAC-10 machine pistol.

While confirming she owns the automatic weapon, Johnson said it is in storage and is not in use.

Johnson said that she could support legislation that increased the minimum age in Oregon to purchase the type of weapon used in the Bend shooting from the current 18 to 21.

Kotek alone supports Measure 114 and has made gun control a major feature of her campaign.

Kotek has been endorsed by the gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety Action and Moms Demand Action.

She unsuccessfully tried to get Drazan and Johnson to commit to a single-issue debate on gun control after 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County, Texas, on May 24, one week after Oregon’s primary election. 

Kotek organized a September meeting of gun control advocates that was streamed live on the internet.

Shannon Watts, founder of the national gun control group Moms Demand Action, called gun control the defining issue of the 2022 race for Oregon governor.

While 80% of Oregon residents polled in August by DHM Research rated gun control as an important election issue, only 7% said it would determine their choice of candidate.

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