Who’s running for Oregon governor?

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Dozens of candidates say they have what it takes to lead Oregon to a brighter future

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem, March 3, 2020. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s primary election is more than a year away, but already more than two dozen people have expressed interest in running for governor. 

As of Nov. 9, 2021, 28 people had either filed as candidates to run or filed their committee for the governor’s race. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2022, leaving the position open for a replacement. 

Here are the candidates looking to lead the state: 

Republican

Bud Pierce – Bud Pierce lives in Salem and is a senior partner and physician at Oregon Oncology Specialists of Salem where he treats cancer patients. He received his doctoral degree from UCLA Medical School. He does not have any prior governmental experience but previously lost to Kate Brown in the 2016 governor’s race. He told KOIN 6 News that he’s a legacy Republican and if he’s elected governor, he’d like to focus on improving public safety, addressing homelessness, helping businesses succeed, and managing forestland better. 

Stan Pulliam – Stan Pulliam is the current mayor of Sandy and currently works as an insurance executive. According to his candidate filing with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, Pulliam received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and has previously worked as a local, state and national Republican campaign staffer. According to his website, Pulliam is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-medical freedom and pro-property rights. 

Jessica Gomez – In a campaign video, Jessica Gomez says she grew up as a homeless teenager and became a CEO by age 26. She and her husband started a microchip manufacturing facility in Southern Oregon in 2003. The company now employs 26 people in Medford. Gomez ran for Oregon State Senate District 3 in 2018 but was defeated by Democrat Jeff Golden. According to her website, Gomez says the state needs a public safety system where the appropriate first responders are deployed, a comprehensive plan to address homelessness, and better teacher-to-student ratio standards. 

John Fosdick III – According to his social media pages, John Fosdick III says he was born in Albany, is a father of two, and served previously in the Oregon National Guard. The Oregon Secretary of State’s records show he has not previously filed to run for state office. 

Kerry McQuisten – Kerry McQuisten is the mayor of Baker City and says she grew up in Baker County and received a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University. After college, she worked overseas and across the U.S. in teaching, publishing and marketing before returning to Baker City and founding a publishing company. According to her campaign website, McQuisten says she’s against COVID-19-related mandates, would ban the teaching of critical race theory, and is against defunding the police.  

Paul Romero – Paul Romero lives in Roseburg and is the CEO of Youwalk Today, a walker and wheelchair product. Romero served 10 years in the Navy and previously worked as a car salesman, project manager and handyman. In a “contract with Oregon” posted on his campaign website, Romero says if elected governor he will audit the state’s budget, improve state computer systems and work to make Oregon an income tax- and property tax-free state.

Marc Thielman – Marc Thielman is the superintendent of the Alsea School District. He’s spent 27 years working in public information, according to his candidate filing, and has a bachelor’s degree from Whitworth University, a master’s degree from Eastern Washington University and a professional degree from Washington State University. According to his campaign website, Thielman supports school choice, health care choice and plans to fight for affordable housing. 

Bridget Barton – Bridget Barton is an editor and publisher who lives in West Linn. She grew up in Virginia and received her bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate from the College of William and Mary. According to her campaign website, Barton has focused much of her career on improving education and has advocated for more charter schools in Oregon. She currently publishes a conservative magazine, Brainstorm NW. She says she supports helping the homeless find safe places to sleep, better job opportunities for Oregonians and an economy where all state residents can thrive. 

Amber Richardson – Amber Richardson was born in Corvallis, raised in Central Point and currently lives in White City. She works as a massage therapist at a chiropractic clinic in Medford. According to her campaign website, Richardson has worked two jobs her entire adult life and wants better for the next generation of Oregonians. She supports in-person voting, changing forest management practices, and gun rights, and does not support defunding the police.  

Jim Huggins – Jim Huggins filed a candidate committee with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office for his 2022 run for governor. Huggins lives in Salem and is the CEO of New Shepherd Films. Higgins says he has doctorate degrees in engineering management and divinity, a master’s degree in engineering and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

Nick Hess – Nick Hess says he’s the owner and CEO of SureTech, an IT support and services provider. He says he and his wife own and operate a cooking class business in Tigard. According to his campaign website, Hess said he’d like Oregon to be more transparent with how tax dollars are spent and would like to work with police and mental health professionals to address homelessness. He’d also like to re-establish Oregon as a tourist destination.  

Brandon Merritt – Brandon Merritt is a social media, marketing and fundraising consultant who is self-employed and lives in Bend, according to his candidate filing record. He received a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music.  

David Burch – David Burch lives in Salem and is unemployed, according to his filing record with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. 

Democrat: 

Michael David – Michael David lives in Ashland. He works as a fleet commander and the dean of admissions at New World University in Grants Pass, according to his candidate committee filing with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.  

Casey Kulla – Casey Kulla is a Yamhill County Commissioner, farmer and small business owner. He was born and raised in Lincoln City. Before starting his farm, Kulla earned a master’s degree in forest ecology and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Western Washington University. He says he’s researched the effects of climate change on the North Cascades. According to his campaign website, Kulla would like to focus on building a better, more affordable healthcare system in Oregon. He’d also like to focus on providing more child care throughout the state to help women get back to work after the pandemic. 

Patrick Starnes – Patrick Starnes is a self-employed home restorer who lives in Brownsville. He ran as an Independent for governor in 2018, but shortly before the election, he asked his supporters to instead vote for Kate Brown’s re-election. Starnes was a campaign finance advocate during the 2019 legislative session, which led to Measure 107 that passed in November 2020. If elected, Starnes hopes to set donor limits within his first 100 days as governor. Starnes said he decided to run as a Democrat in 2022 after the U.S. Capitol insurrection in January 2021 and the Biden administration’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Tina Kotek – Tina Kotek is the current Oregon House Speaker and is the state representative for District 44. She lives in Portland and on her campaign website she says she’s running for governor because she knows that “together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon.” She says she wants to prioritize affordable housing, expand access to quality healthcare and tackle the climate crisis.

Michael Trimble – Michael Trimble lives in Portland and is a customer service representative for CareOregon. He says he was born in St. Petersburg, Russia without arms due to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. He was adopted and says he suffered abuse before he was placed in juvenile protective services. He moved to Portland in 2015. Trimble says he’d like to expand Medicaid to all Oregonians who make under $93,000, would like to provide additional rent relief and fortify the cycling pedestrian infrastructure.

Wilson Bright – Wilson Bright lives in Portland and is currently retired. He once owned and operated Rose City Textiles and RCT Fabrics. 

Tobias Read – Tobias Read is the current Oregon State Treasurer and lives in Portland. He previously served in the Oregon House of Representatives. During his time in the House, he says he championed legislation to invest in public education. In his campaign for governor, Read is promising more investment in kids’ education. He says he wants to make pre-K available to all Oregon children and expand apprenticeships and vocational training. Read wants to confront climate change and build more affordable housing units. 

Nicholas Kristof – Nick Kristof is a journalist, author and farmer who grew up in Yamhill. Kristof worked for decades as a columnist for the New York Times and traveled the world as he covered the news. He left the Times days after filing paperwork to form a political action committee. Kristof says he wants to make Oregon a place that awards American values like hard work and initiative.   

Keisha Lanell Merchant – Keisha Lanell Merchant, or Coach Kay, is an artist who lives in Albany. According to her candidate information submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, she’s previously worked as a health care practitioner, a marketing distributor and a motivational coach. She has a master’s degree in business communication from Jones International University and a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from Oregon State University. 

Dave Lavinsky – Dave Lavinsky lives in Bend and works for Growthink, Inc. He has a master’s degree in business from UCLA Anderson and a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Virginia, according to his candidate filing information. 

Peter Hall – Peter Hall is a city councilor in Haines and is a director on the board of the League of Oregon Cities, according to his candidate filing information. Hall grew up outside of Seattle and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. On his campaign website, Hall says he believes social welfare programs need to be based on cost instead of just income. He’d like to change the culture of police departments to help recruit officers who will do the job ethically.

Michael Cross – Michael Cross is a software designer and commercial driver who lives in Salem. He’s previously worked as an entrepreneur, business owner and writer, according to his candidate filing information. According to his campaign website, Cross believes businesses should not be fined for operating in violation of COVID-19 mandates and that “defunding the police is insanity.” He’d like to reopen the state fully, with or without masks. 

Independent: 

Tim Harrold – Tim Harrold is an operations manager at Executive Security Services, Inc. in Milwaukie and lives in Dundee, according to his candidate committee filing. Harrold was born in California and moved to North Carolina to pursue a career as a police officer. His wife is from Oregon and they decided to move back to the Beaver State to raise their children. On his website, Harrold says he would like to increase classrooms and teachers to improve the teacher-to-student ratio. He wants to find solutions for homelessness and believes police need to be correctly trained and supported.   

Betsy Johnson – Betsy Johnson is a current Oregon state senator for District 16 and lives in Scappoose. She currently serves in the Senate as a Democrat but is running for Oregon as an Independent. She previously served in the House before she was appointed to the Senate. Johnson was born in Redmond and attended Carleton College in Minnesota. She received a law degree from Lewis & Clark College. 

Kevin Levy – Kevin Levy is a real estate broker who lives in Portland. According to his campaign website, Levy is running for governor because he wants to expand economic growth in all Oregon counties, address homelessness and create more affordable housing. He also wants to help more high school students enter higher education and supports after-school programs. 

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