PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Longtime Oregon state lawmaker Betsy Johnson announced Tuesday she’s stepping down from her senate role as she focuses on her gubernatorial campaign.
Johnson, who has served since 2005 in the Oregon Senate with the majority of time as a Democrat, recently announced her bid for Oregon governor as an unaffiliated candidate.
In a video posted to social media, Johnson said it was an honor to work for her constituents in Oregon Senate’s 16th district, but said the response for her campaign for governor has been “energizing and inspiring.”
“It is so clear Oregonians want a different kind of politics and they certainly want a different kind of leadership,” she said. “They want leadership that reaches beyond party labels, rejects the extremes and puts common sense and service to the common good.”
Johnson said her resignation from the Senate will be effective Dec. 15. She said she cannot commit to being a full-time state senator while also doing the full-time job of running for governor.
She said she hopes the party officials and county commissioners will choose someone fully dedicated to serving and service as her replacement.
“I will never forget the opportunity you have given this daughter of Oregon to learn, to serve, and to continue to lead,” she said.
On Dec. 7, Knute Buehler, a former Oregon state representative from Bend who ran for governor as a Republican against Kate Brown in 2018, announced he was endorsing Johnson in the 2022 race.
KOIN 6 News spoke to Buehler about the endorsement. He said he thinks Johnson is the right person for the job because she puts people before her political party.
“There’s a lot of people in Oregon hurting right now and who need help. And I think Senator Johnson is the best person to really solve a lot of the big problems that we face in Oregon,” Buehler said.
Buehler was formerly a Republican but renounced his ties to the party after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack. He said even when he was working as a Republican and Johnson was a Democratic senator, they had a lot of similar views.
He said people are tired of the partisan back and forth and want to see politicians roll up their sleeves and do something about issues like homelessness, drug use and crime.
“Many of these party labels increasingly don’t really reflect a lot of us. You know, I’ve been a Republican for most of my life, but I find I really don’t know what Republicans stand for in this new age. So, let’s just get rid of those labels. Let’s just be independent thinkers. Let’s support good people for office,” he said.
Buehler said to him, being a Republican means believing in freedom and small government and creating opportunities for people. But he said these days, especially at the national level, he isn’t seeing Republicans take that approach.
He said he wants his supporters to know that he doesn’t think a Republican could win the race for Oregon governor. But, he thinks as an Independent candidate, Johnson has a chance.
“The alternative is a radical left candidate from Portland, which I think would be devastating for the state,” Buehler said.
He said he’s seen Johnson appeal to both Democrats and Republicans and that’s why he thinks she’ll have a successful race.
Buehler said he will help Johnson in any way he can. He said he’s on board for whatever will help her become the next governor of Oregon.
“Betsy, running independent of any party and loyal only to the people of Oregon, is the best opportunity to bring needed change and balance to our state politics and state government,” Buehler wrote in his endorsement statement.
KOIN 6 News reached out to Johnson’s campaign requesting an interview to discuss Buehler’s endorsement. We did not hear back before publication.