U.S. state of Oregon's next governor has a Czech connection

If the Republicans take control of either house of Congress, the U.S. could change its stance on the war in Ukraine.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 09.11.2022 10:54:00 (updated on 09.11.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Voting in the U.S. midterm elections is over and some races are still too close to call. One result is certain though, the next governor of the state of Oregon will have a Czech last name. As the votes are counted, Democratic candidate Christine "Tina" Kotek has a slight edge over Republican rival Christine Drazan.

Czech names usually have simple meanings. “Kotek” is “kitten” and “Dražan” is related to “dear” or “precious.” Tina Kotek has Czech roots from her father’s side, while Christine Drazan acquired her Czech name through marriage to Daniel Drazan, a lawyer.

Unlike some states, Oregon is not known for its Czech population, so the contest between two Czech names is a true statistical anomaly. Texas, for example, has some areas settled by Czechs in the 18th century and a few words like “kolache” for a type of pastry have even entered the local lexicon.

There is also a big Czech influence in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Some place names in these areas show a Czech influence as well.

A gubernatorial race like no other

All three top candidates are women, so the winner will be the third woman to be governor of the state. A third candidate, independent Betsy Johnson, has about 9 percent of the vote and no chance to win.

Kotek was speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives from 2013 to 2022, serving the third longest term in that post in the state’s history. She was also the first openly lesbian person to serve as a speaker in any state in the United States.

Should Kotek win, she will be the second openly lesbian woman and fourth openly LGBTQ+ person to become a governor of a U.S. state.

Drazan was a member of the Oregon House of Representatives from 2019 to 2022. She served as the minority leader from 2019 to 2021, overlapping the time when Kotek was speaker of the state house. This made them direct political rivals.

The gubernatorial race in Oregon was unusually close, as the state has not had a Republican governor since 1982. The margins of victory for the Democrats have been getting slimmer over time, and the current governor, Kate Brown, faced two recall attempts and in a 2021 poll was the most unpopular governor in the country.

Midterms results likely to impact U.S. foreign policy agenda

While the state elections will have little impact on international politics, the U.S. midterms also will determine which parties control the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two houses of the U.S. Congress. While Joe Biden will remain president, as he is not currently up for re-election, he will have difficulty implementing his agenda if either of the two houses is led by a Republican majority.

Political analysts cited by U.S. and international media point out that Biden might have trouble with his support for Ukraine in its conflict against Russia.

New York Times columnist Michael Crowley said that a Republican takeover of the House or Senate could complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to defend Ukraine, and also slow down the confirmation of key U.S. ambassadors.

While he did not mention the Czech Republic specifically, the country has been without a U.S. ambassador since Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021. Billionaire tech investor Bijan Sabet was nominated in August but has not been confirmed.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, said people were in the midst of a recession and as such unwilling to write a " free blank check" to Ukraine. “They just won’t do it. Ukraine is important, but at the same time it can’t be the only thing they do and it can’t be a blank check,” he said in a recent interview for Punchbowl News.

If the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, then McCarthy could become the speaker of the House.

Politicians in Russia are reportedly keeping a close eye on the elections. “The Biden administration will find it more difficult to push financial aid programs to Kyiv through Congress, and the position of U.S. critics of unlimited aid to Ukraine will markedly strengthen," Alexey Pushkov, a foreign policy specialist and a Russian senator, said in a post on the social media app Telegram, according to news agency Reuters.

He added that he was not expecting “a revolution in U.S. foreign policy” or an end to support for Ukraine, though.

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