As the polls tighten in Oregon’s gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Christine Drazan appears to be tightening her ties to right-wing extremists, too.
Drazan, who served in the state legislature from 2019 to 2022 and was also the House minority leader, has taken a total of $70,000 this year from conservative megadonor David Gore and his wife, per a review of Drazan’s campaign finance records.
That includes their $20,000 campaign donation from a couple of weeks ago.
Who is Gore? The Oregon libertarian has been a major funder of the far-right Tea Party Patriots, which helped organize the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in support of former President Donald Trump that led to the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Gore has given a total of $449,000 to the Tea Party Patriots’ three sub-organizations in recent years, according to The Intercept. Between 2018 and 2021, he gave $50,000 to Tea Party Patriot Action, $275,000 to Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and $124,000 to the Tea Party Patriot Foundation.
Among those donations, Gore gave $100,000 to the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund in January 2020. That contribution more than doubled all of his previous federal donations since 2007, and it was a major infusion of cash for the group, which started that year with just $11,200 cash in reserves.
And curiously, about a week after the insurrection at the Capitol, Gore gave $150,000 to the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, according to FEC filings.
Beyond her financial ties to Gore, Drazan recently featured B.J. Soper, a far-right, anti-government militia leader, as a speaker at one of her campaign events.
Soper issued “a rousing call to arms” to Drazan’s supporters at her Sept. 1 campaign event in Terrebonne, Oregon, as one local website put it. He tied his support for GOP candidates like Drazan to the mission of his organization, People’s Rights, which he said is to defend people against federal government intrusion at all costs.
“We do that physically if everything else fails,” Soper said during his remarks. “That’s our motto at this point.”
He also compared central Oregon to a military fort, and warned Drazan’s supporters of “an assault coming our way — a socialist, communist assault” aimed at stripping people of their way of life. “It is time that we stand up and we take hold of this redoubt here,” he said.
Here’s video footage of Soper speaking at Drazan’s campaign event.
Soper has a long history of far-right militia organizing. The Washington Post described him in 2016 as “an emerging leader in a growing national movement rooted in distrust of the federal government, one that increasingly finds itself in armed conflicts with authorities.” Law enforcement officials see people like Soper as “dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent,” the article notes.
Soper founded the Pacific Patriot Network in 2015, “a far-right paramilitary network under the direction of Oath Keepers,” per the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, an organization that unmasks movements that threaten democracy. Soper’s network included members of Oath Keepers, the leaders of which are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy, and Three Percenters, a militia movement that backs the idea of a small number of dedicated “patriots” protecting Americans from government tyranny.
Soper also founded the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, a group that practices “basic infantry tactics” and trains with concealed handguns and combat-style rifles, per The Washington Post. In April 2015, he put on paramilitary camouflage fatigues, carried his AR-15 rifle and spent a couple of weeks “standing guard” at the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon, where miners were having a dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Soper’s stump speech for Drazan comes at a time when she has refused, twice, to say if she supports Jo Rae Perkins, a QAnon supporter running for U.S. Senate in Oregon. QAnon conspiracy theorists believe that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic sexual abusers of children operating a global child sex trafficking ring conspired against Trump when he was president. (Yeah.)
Asked in August if she supports Perkins, Drazan simply wished her “the best.”
Drazan spokesperson John Burke did not respond to a request for comment on why Drazan appears to be tying herself to right-wing extremists in the final weeks of her campaign.
Instead, Burke attacked Drazan’s Democratic opponent, Tina Kotek, and said that she and random HuffPost editors are the only ones who believe that Drazan is a right-wing extremist. (There is no evidence that any HuffPost editors believe that Drazan is a right-wing extremist or even know who she is.)
Burke requested that his entire statement be shared, so here it is:
“The only people who believe Christine Drazan is a quote ‘right-wing extremist’ are the editors at Huffpost and the Kotek campaign. Oregonians know that this line of questioning is complete nonsense and a desperate attempt to use pitched opposition research to save a governorship that Democrats have held for nearly 40 years. Unlike Tina Kotek, who is focused on spreading laughable conspiracy theories like this one, Christine Drazan is focused on the issues that matter most to the people of our state.”
Kotek spokesperson Katie Wertheimer also did not say that Kotek believes Drazan is a right-wing extremist. Instead, she said what Drazan is doing is appealing to extremists to try to win their votes ahead of the election.
“The threats to our democracy are very real and they are here in Oregon,” said Wertheimer. “Instead of standing up for what’s right, Christine Drazan is courting the support of election deniers, insurrectionists and MAGA loyalists.”
Drazan currently holds a slight lead in the polls in her three-way race against Kotek, who served in the state legislature from 2007 to 2022 and was House speaker from 2013 to 2022, and independent Betsy Johnson, who served in the state legislature for 20 years as a Democrat.
Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982. But The Cook Political Report recently shifted this race to a toss-up, citing Johnson’s influence as a well-funded independent and a potential spoiler.