We are days away from Tuesday’s primary in Oregon and early turnout results suggest most voters likely did not vote. But there are a number of important races being decided. So OPB news director Anna Griffin joined Jenn Chávez to go over details last-minute voters might want to keep in mind.

Jenn Chavez: So let’s just dive into it then. One of the most important races in this ballot is for governor. What choices are voters considering here?

Anna Griffin: So let’s start with some background. Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, cannot seek re-election due to term limits. Democratic and Republican voters will therefore select candidates for the November general election.

On the Democratic side, the two most prominent candidates, both in terms of fundraising and the momentum of their campaigns, are former House Speaker Tina Kotek and State Treasurer Tobias Read. The big question for voters in this race is basically which flavor of progressive Oregon you prefer.

Related: Tina Kotek has dominated Oregon politics for the past decade. It could be a problem

Kotek was the longest-serving lecturer in Oregon history. She’s responsible for a lot of things in this era, raising the minimum wage, eliminating single-family zoning, a new education business tax, paid sick days. She also gained a reputation for using the power of her office to push through progressive policies, sometimes in ways that left other lawmakers feeling bruised. Decide for yourself if you think there’s a bit of inherent sexism in this review.

Related: Tobias Read has Oregon political chops and strong business ties. But did he miss his moment?

Tobias Read presents himself as a slightly more moderate, business-friendly and conciliatory alternative. He also did a lot as treasurer. He improved the state’s college savings plan, introduced a retirement program for workers who don’t have one at work, and maintained fairly high returns on college pension investments. State. It’s all really weird stuff that’s hard for voters to translate. He went after Kotek for homelessness in Portland. His argument – you’ve been responsible for years – why haven’t you fixed this yet?

Chavez: OK, so what about the Republican side?

Griffin: There are 19 candidates in this race. It is therefore very difficult to predict what will happen next week. But among the biggest contenders, we can sort of speak of three groups.

Related: Oregon GOP gubernatorial candidates hope 2022 will end 40-year losing streak

There are candidates who are running very hard to the right, clearly aiming to attract supporters of President Donald Trump, denying that Joe Biden has won the presidential race, really making this campaign about cultural issues such as abortion, rights transgender, antifa in Portland. That group would include Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, consultant and writer Bridget Barton.

Related: In blue Oregon, Trump’s party ties complicate matters for GOP gubernatorial candidates

Then there’s a group of better-known Republicans, trying to appeal to conservative voters, but also trying to make sure they’re not too right wing to win a general election. So, for example, they say the things you’d expect from a Republican candidate in a primary about abortion or how race is taught in schools, but they also acknowledge that Joe Biden is actually president. That group would include former Republican leader Christine Drazan, Salem oncologist Bud Pierce.

Finally, you have Jessica Gomez, who is a business owner from southern Oregon, really operating like an old school, almost Rockefeller Republican, fiscally conservative, but more moderate on social issues, to the point that she’s is labeled as pro-choice in a recent debate. .

Chavez: I get it. OK, so plenty of choices for voters in this race. Meanwhile, Portland voters will also choose two city council members, including the seat of Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. Two years ago, her re-election seemed certain, but now she’s in for a hell of a ride. What changed?

Griffin: Where to start with what has changed in the last two years, Jenn? Just in Portland, we’ve seen a huge political shift since 2020. Back then, it was our nation’s summer of racial reckoning. There have been real conversations about defunding the police.

Since then we’ve seen a spike in gun violence and homelessness, and sort of quality of life issues, graffiti, vandalism. He has a lot of Portlanders in the city government and, in particular, people with the money to influence the election – we’re talking people from the real estate community, downtown business owners – very frustrated with Hardesty in particular.

Related: Everybody Hates Portland: The city’s worsening crises are an X-factor this year

Two candidates won in this race, both in the race, if not from the right, at least from the centre: Vadim Mozyrsky and René Gonzalez. The business community has set up a political action committee that spends heavily to help Mozyrsky. He is an administrative law judge. Gonzalez is a lawyer who owns a software company, and he’s earned a number of top accolades, including from The Oregonian’s editorial board. Gonzalez and Mozyrsky both say Portland needs to get serious about enforcing camping laws, cleaning up the streets, giving police more resources and more moral support.

Related: Portland has two major city council races. We asked the candidates their position on the major issues

Meanwhile, Hardisty did exactly what she said she was going to do when she became the first black woman elected to city council. First and foremost, they pushed for much more civilian oversight of the police. The question is whether you like it or not.

Chavez: So what other races will you be watching on election night?

Griffin: A lot. We have two open seats in Congress.

We have a race in the 5th Congressional District, Congressman Kurt Schrader faces a very serious challenge from the left of Jamie McLeod Skinner. Democrats in that district have been sharply divided over his role as a member of a highly influential group of more conservative Democrats in the House.

Related: https://www.opb.org/article/2022/04/26/10-essential-questions-about-oregons-5th-district-the-states-most-unpredictable-congressional-race/

And Oregon voters will choose a new commissioner of labor. It’s a non-partisan office, so it’s on everyone’s ballot. It’s not a job that many people pay attention to. But the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries plays a role in almost every aspect of work life.

Related: Race for Oregon labor commissioner attracts candidates with legal and government experience

Chavez: And again, the early turnout shows us that a lot of Oregonians haven’t voted yet. Anything else people who haven’t filled out their ballot should know?

Multnomah County ballots are different this year than in previous elections.

Jeff Thompson/OPB

Griffin: First, vote. Your ballot is somewhere in that pile of unopened mail. If you are in Multnomah County, be aware that the ballot, envelope is a little different this year. It’s an odd shape compared to what you’re used to. Also, be aware that half of the counties in the state got rid of those secret pockets you had to put your ballot in before returning it. The deadlines are also different. You can still cast your ballot in any official county election before 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Related: Election 2022: OPB Voting Guide

But here’s the big change: you can still send it by mail. It is not too late. Usually, this time in an election cycle, we tell you, don’t mail your ballot, don’t mail your ballot. Well, now you can. Ballots postmarked before May 17 will be counted. This change means results in tighter races may take longer, as some of these contests we won’t know the winner on election night.

Chavez: I get it. Well, Anna, thank you very much for this study session on the ballots.

Griffin: With pleasure, Jenn.