PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In an attempt to bolster local Democrats, Vermont’s US Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Oregon on Thursday – spending the afternoon in Northwest Portland at a rally at the Roseland Theater.

The senator visited with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek as well as senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

Sanders’ appearance follows President Joe Biden’s recent visit to bolster turnout for Kotek.  

KOIN 6 News’ Dan Tilkin is looking into whether these visits by notable political figures will have any influence ahead of Election Day on Nov. 8.

In the decidedly blue state of Oregon, polling shows Republican Christine Drazan leading Kotek in the governor’s race with unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson siphoning votes away.

Reed College political science professor Chris Koski told KOIN 6 News the visits are a sign Democrats think Kotek might be able to turn out votes saying they are “designed to light a fire underneath people that were thinking about essentially choosing between Johnson and Kotek. I think up until this point, it’s been largely a hypothetical race.”

Koski added, “Democrats are trying to essentially get the message out, and they have been very forcefully that at this point, Johnson looks as though she’s not going to win, which means that your vote for Johnson’s effectively casting a vote for Drazan.”

Koski also described the significance of having a senator such as Sanders attend the rally.

“It’s clear at this point that Democrats are concerned about turnout. They want to get folks who are interested in national politics to turnout by bringing in these big names. It’s also true that some of these big names are really popular in Oregon politics and in some ways, in some anti-establishment ways. So, for example, Bernie Sanders.”

Koski continued that Sander’s “political positions are pretty far to the left. At the same time, his positions on specific kinds of issues such as trade, and even at one point guns, were conservative enough for him to be popular with a group of both leftist as well as moderate Democrats.”

The professor also described how Kotek has suddenly turned against Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, criticizing the outgoing governor in campaign ads for her handling of the homeless crisis. Koski said Kotek probably needed to distance herself from Brown sooner.