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Oregon governor candidates weigh in on death penalty

OR gubernatorial candidates 2022
OPB Staff / OPB
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The three major candidates for Oregon governor. From left to right: Tina Kotek, Betsy Johnson and Christine Drazan.

In the race to be Oregon’s next governor, the Democratic candidate says she’ll continue Oregon’s moratorium on capital punishment, while the Republican and unaffiliated candidates indicate they will revoke it, which could allow the state to resume executions.

For more than a decade, Oregon governors have placed a moratorium on capital punishment, despite a long-standing, voter-approved constitutional amendment that allows the state to kill people convicted of the most serious crimes.

Oregon’s next governor has the power to decide whether to maintain the moratorium of their predecessors, or revoke it, opening up the possibility of the state carrying out death sentences once more.

“As long as the death penalty remains a possibility, there’s always the possibility of an execution,” said Jeff Ellis, director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center, which assists attorneys representing people sentenced to death.


OPB asked all three gubernatorial candidates: If elected governor, would you continue or repeal the current moratorium on the death penalty? Why?

The three candidates responded in writing. Their complete, unedited answers are below.

Former Oregon House minority leader Christine Drazan, the Republican candidate for governor, indicated she would lift the moratorium, but not approve every execution:

“I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but the death penalty was put in place by Oregon voters. I will follow the law by reviewing cases on a case-by-case basis, which is my duty as governor. Rather than setting aside the law I will act based on the facts and fulfill my duty within the confines of my conscience.”

Former speaker of the Oregon House, Tina Kotek, who is running as a Democrat for governor, said she would keep the moratorium in place:

“Oregon has not followed through on the death penalty in over 25 years, and as Governor, I would continue the current moratorium. I am personally opposed to the death penalty because of my religious beliefs.”

Former Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate, said she would allow the state to carry out executions:

“As governor, I will enforce Oregon’s death penalty in cases where a judge or jury deems it appropriate for a heinous crime. Oregonians have twice voted on and affirmed our death penalty. It’s time for liberal politicians to stop trying to overturn it or subvert it by letting dangerous criminals out of prison.”

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting