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Nike co-founder gives Oregon gubernatorial candidate $250K

February 4, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Nike co-founder Phil Knight made a $250,000 contribution this week to the Oregon gubernatorial campaign of Betsy Johnson, an unaffiliated candidate.

Knight’s contribution is one of the two largest to any campaign in the state’s governor race so far, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Johnson earlier received another $250,000 from The Papé Group, a company based in Eugene that offers equipment rental and repairs for construction, forestry, agriculture and other industries.

She also got a $225,000 donation from Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle.

This is not Knight’s first six-figure donation during an Oregon governor’s race. In 2010, he gave $400,000 to Republican gubernatorial candidate and former NBA player Chris Dudley. In 2014, Knight spent $250,000 to help Democratic former Gov. John Kitzhaber win reelection.

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In 2018, the billionaire gave a total of $2.5 million to moderate Republican lawmaker Knute Buehler, who was attempting to unseat current Gov. Kate Brown.

Brown, a Democrat, cannot run again due to term limits. Democrats have held the governor’s office since 1987.

As of Thursday, Johnson’s campaign war chest sat at a healthy $3.5 million — placing her ahead of every other candidate in the governor’s race in terms of fundraising.

Johnson is a former Democratic state senator who frequently voted with Republicans on issues like gun control, taxes and climate change. She resigned from the Senate in December to focus on her gubernatorial bid.

As an independent, Johnson avoids a crowded Democratic field in the primary and will not need to run a primary race to make the November ballot. Instead, she has to collect roughly 23,750 valid signatures from Oregon voters.

Oregon’s Democratic candidates for governor include former House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read.

The Democrat with the largest balance — $1.8 million — is former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, but the funds may be mute. In January, Oregon election officials ruled Kristof is ineligible to run for governor because he does not meet the state’s three-year residency requirement.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said it was obvious Kristof had been a New Yorker until just over one year ago, citing in particular his having voted in New York in the 2020 election. Kristof is awaiting a decision from the Oregon Supreme Court.

On the Republican side, Christine Drazen — the former House minority leader — has the most campaign contributions with $850,000.

Oregon remains one of a handful of states without any political donation caps in force. However, that may change as campaign contribution limits are among major policy proposals being discussed during the state’s current legislative session.