On Nov. 1, 2022, Tina Kotek, Democratic nominee for Oregon’s gubernatorial race, visited Willamette University to discuss the importance of this midterm election, address issues that Willamette students value, and emphasize the impact and significance of voting. The event was organized by Sophia Rosenberg (‘25) from Students4Tina, Willamette College Democrats, Climate Action Alliance, Choice Action Team, and Queer Student Union.
Students4Tina is a coalition of university students across the state of Oregon that support Kotek as the next governor of Oregon, fighting to make sure she wins this close election. In a speech, Rosenberg said,“I am personally a big fan of Tina because she supports my values, and I trust that she is going to get things done in office and I especially trust that she is going to fight for what I believe in.” They further elaborated, saying, “Republican candidates want to make sure that our voices are silenced. They want to take away our bodily autonomy. They want to make sure that the climate isn’t in our hands. They want to make sure that we have no voice and take away our rights. This is not what democracy looks like.”
Emma Innes (‘24), events chair of the College Democrats and editor-in-chief at the Collegian, Ava Digre (‘26), an Advocacy Leader for Choice Action Team, and Ian Curtis (‘23), president of Climate Action Alliance, were student speakers at the event. The student speakers continuously emphasized the need to have Kotek in office, as she is the only candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood, proposed measures to combat climate change, and addressed disparities in Oregon that have directly impacted marginalized groups such as the queer, Indigenous, African American, and Asian communties.
When Kotek entered the room, the student body unanimously cheered, as she remarked that she hoped everyone enjoyed the campaign pizza. Kotek said that this election year is “monumental for our whole country, and Oregon’s no different.” She went on to say, “I would love to have your support as your next governor because I want to make sure your future is going to be safer, more sustainable, more affordable, so that you can follow your dreams. I mean, it’s that simple. And I want to make sure we have an Oregon where everyone feels like they can be successful.” Kotek further elaborated that as governor, she intends to progress the state forward, unlike other candidates Christine Drazan(R) and Betsy Johnson(I), emphasizing that voices of younger Oregonians matter to her, especially in this election.
When asked what her plan was to support the LGTBQ+ community in Oregon, Kotek said that she and her wife “decided to get in this race because we want to have a state where it can be a place to be themselves, whatever that looks like. It’s just so frustrating to me that we’re still having these discussions about what it means to just let people be who they are.” Her plans include “enforcing anti bullying laws, enforcing our hate crime laws, and working with the attorney general to make sure no one is harassed or intimidated in our community,” as well as “making sure that health care is accessible to folks who need it, particularly, in our transgender community.”
Kotek explained that her main priorities as governor would be addressing the housing and homeless crisis and mental health and addiction, topics that go hand in hand. “What we are going to have to do is get out there on the streets, work with people one on one, help them get connected to services and meet them where they are. There are people who have been on the streets for years, and they need to feel that they can trust somebody to get connected to services like getting into a shelter or to a rehab. That’s why I’ve been a big fan and proponent of converting motels to shelters. Because it’s easy to do, it’s quicker, and it’s effective.” She provided the statistic that “in Oregon, we are thousands of housing units behind. We need 36,000 housing units per year for the next decade to really meet the needs of who lives here now, and who will be living here in the future,” to further clarify her plan to address the housing and homeless crisis.
When asking the student body why they support Tina Kotek, Abbi Richeson (‘26) said, “Kotek is the best eligible candidate and supports most of my opinions.” Kathleen Snyder (‘26) said, “ I am voting for Tina because she is advocating for rights that queer women have been relying on for years.” Overall, Tina Kotek emphasized the importance of voting, encouraging students to vote, as well as participate in activities such as door-knocking, phone banking, and simply reaching out to a family member or friend reminding them it is election season.
Additional Photos by Josie Elicker