PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Democrat Tina Kotek was sworn in as Oregon’s 39th governor on Monday — vowing to declare a homelessness state of emergency and calling on Oregonians to believe in the future of Oregon amid a housing and homeless crisis.
Kotek began her address by thanking her predecessor, Kate Brown, saying, “you led with a deep love for our state and compassion for everyday Oregonians.”
Speaking to her new role, Kotek noted, “for me, this job will be waking up every day with a mission. My mission, simply put, is to deliver results for Oregonians. To take on our biggest challenges and make things better.”
“Governing is about more than competing values. It’s about serving our people. Not Democrats, Republicans or Independents. But parents, children, teachers, students, business owners and workers, families from the Rose City and families from towns without a stop light. Governing is about serving Oregonians, all Oregonians,” Kotek said.
Kotek pledged as governor to “turn things around” by connecting with Oregonians from all corners of the state to address shared concerns like housing, homelessness, behavioral health and addiction care and education. In her pledge, she vowed to visit every Oregon county within her first year in office.
On her first full day in office, on Tuesday, Kotek promised to sign an executive order to set a housing production target of over 36,000 homes per year. “Building more housing is key to creating healthier and safer communities and supporting economic growth,” Kotek stated.
She then promised to declare a homelessness state of emergency and is urging a $130 million investment, which she said, will at least help 1,200 Oregonians move off the street each year.
“Today, I ask all my fellow Oregonians to believe in our state and its future. We need you. The true transformation will require each and every one of us to be engaged. And I hope you will hear my call for each of us to act as a force for positive change,” Kotek said.
“Imagine an Oregon where no one has to live in a tent on a sidewalk. Where Oregonians seeking help for mental health concern or substance use issue can find and afford the support they need. Imagine an Oregon where every child has a safe place to receive a high-quality public education. And every Oregon family has access to affordable childcare,” Kotek said.
She added “and imagine an Oregon where everyone has financial stability and pathways to greater opportunity. Where all Oregonians feel safe in their home and community. That’s an Oregon we’re fighting for.”
Kotek succeeds Kate Brown, who served a full 8 years (minus the 38 days before John Kitzhaber served in his 4th term before resigning) continuing the streak of Democratic governors of Oregon since Republican Vic Atiyeh left the office in 1987.
But it was a close race in a 3-way contest that included Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson. When Drazan conceded 3 days after the election, Kotek led with 47.15% of the votes while Drazan had 43.47% with 86% of votes counted.
With Kotek’s swearing-in, Oregon’s governorship and legislative leader positions in both chambers will be held by people born after the post-World War II baby boom from 1946 to 1964, Pamplin Media reports.
Neither Kitzhaber nor Neil Goldschmidt is expected to attend Kotek’s inauguration. However, both Ted Kulongoski and Barbara Roberts will likely be at the State Capitol.
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan was in attendance but watched the ceremony from an undisclosed location. According to a release from her office, this was to avoid having the governor, SoS and state treasurer in the same high-profile location — Fagan will act as the “designated survivor.”
The release included a statement from Fagan, in which she expressed her excitement for Kotek. Fagan also stated she will miss Brown, whom she says “leaves a legacy of trailblazing and lifesaving.”
“I am excited to celebrate another trailblazer today, Oregon’s new Governor, Tina Kotek,” Fagan’s statement read in part. “After serving with Governor-Elect Kotek in the Oregon House when she was the Speaker, I have no doubt that she is eager to cut through the ceremony and get back to work solving Oregon’s biggest challenges. I celebrate her today, not only because of her barrier-breaking accession to Oregon’s highest office, but because of how hard she will work for all of Oregon for the next four years.”
The Oregon House and Senate
All 60 state representatives will be seated and sworn in for two-year terms. The Democrats hold a 35-25 lead in seats in the House — but not the supermajority they’ve had in recent years.
In the Senate, 15 senators will be sworn in for new four-year terms, and Winsvey Campos of Aloha will take over the District 18 seat that Ginny Burdick of Portland vacated in late 2021. Campos was elected to the two years remaining in Burdick’s term. Thirteen senators were not up for election on Nov. 8, Pamplin media reports.
But there is one senate vacancy. Dallas Heard, the Roseburg Republican, resigned January 1. His seat in District 1 will be filled by a Republican nominated by the commissioners in Douglas, Coos and Curry counties. But if the seat remains vacant by the end of January, Kotek can fill it by appointing any Republican within the district.
Oregon does not conduct midterm elections for legislative vacancies under a law that dates back to the 1950s.