Anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore entered the race for Oregon governor on Monday, marking his third attempt at Oregon’s top job.

Sizemore, 70, was the Republican Party nominee for governor in 1998 and announced a campaign in 2009 before he was indicted on tax evasion charges. He told the Oregon Capital Chronicle he decided after looking around the crowded Republican primary field that nobody in the race had a shot at winning in the fall.

Sizemore said Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam’s “stumble” last week forced his hand. The Portland alt-weekly Willamette Week reported on Pulliam’s participation in a Facebook group for “swingers,” or couples who engage in sexual activity with other couples. 

“I wanted to see what the field of candidates was, and I felt like the guy who was going to run away with it, after the stumble by Stan Pulliam, was Bud Pierce,” Sizemore said. “I just don’t think Bud is a solid conservative, and that’s what I think we need to turn the state around.” 

Pierce, a Salem oncologist, was the 2016 Republican nominee for governor. He’s running further to the right in this election than in 2016, focusing his campaign on riots in Portland and opposing abortion rights, which he supported in 2016. 

Pierce, Pulliam and former state House Republican leader Christine Drazan currently lead in fundraising and name recognition, with Drazan raising over $1 million and Pierce and Pulliam coming close.

Sizemore, who lists himself as a general contractor in Redmond in campaign filings, was the Republican nominee in 1998, losing the general election to Democrat John Kitzhaber on a 2-1 margin. He said he knew he had no shot of beating Kitzhaber, who was a popular incumbent, and ran just for the fun of debating him – but this year is different.

Republicans are optimistic that Betsy Johnson, a longtime Democratic state senator from northwest Oregon who is now running unaffiliated with any party, will peel votes from the eventual Democratic nominee. Johnson has raised nearly $4 million for her campaign, and she last week secured the backing of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who spent $2.5 million on the governor’s race in 2018.

Sizemore tried to run again in 2010 and abandoned those efforts after he was indicted for tax evasion. He ultimately pleaded guilty to three felonies for failing to file state income tax returns in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He served 30 days in jail and three years probation, and a judge later reduced those charges to misdemeanors. 

He describes that as a political prosecution, and he said most Republicans would agree with him. 

“It was all politics from beginning to end,” Sizemore said. “It was Democrats militarizing the Department of Justice and using it to persecute their political enemies.”

The primary election is just over three months away, but the fields might not be set. 

Dallas Heard, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, tried and failed to get other state party officials to support him as a candidate for governor during a party meeting over the weekend, according to GOP activists. Heard hasn’t officially filed for governor. 

And Democrats await an Oregon Supreme Court decision on whether former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof meets a requirement in the Oregon Constitution to live in Oregon for three years prior to the election. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan decided that Kristof didn’t because he voted in New York in 2020, while Kristof contends that his family’s Yamhill farm has always been his home. 

The court began reviewing legal arguments at the end of January and doesn’t have a timeline for when it will make its decision. Kristof has raised more than twice as much as the other two Democratic frontrunners, former House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: [email protected] Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.