Organizers of the TEDxPortland conference and music event angered some members of the audience by giving independent candidate for governor Betsy Johnson, who in the past earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association, a place not announced in her event scheduling saturday.
The group also appeared to have violated IRS rules that prohibit tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from giving preferential treatment to any political candidate.
The federal agency is clear that 501 (c) 3 nonprofits like TEDxPortland must offer candidates at the same time, writing: “If a candidate is invited to speak at an event of the organization in its As a political candidate, the organization must take steps to ensure that it offers the same opportunity to participate to all political candidates seeking the same position. ”But the Portland-based nonprofit may have some margin, because Johnson has not been formally approved to run.
Johnson, who voted against gun safety bills as a Democrat in the Oregon Senate and mentioned being a gun owner during his TEDxPortland talk at the Fashion Center on Saturday afternoon, teased, booed and shouted gun control demands during his time on stage.
KGW journalist Evan Watson and others at the event noted on social media how tense the crowd was during Johnson’s surprise appearance.
In videos that Watson recorded and shared online, David Rae, the organizer and presenter of the event and the president of the nonprofit that organizes the event, told the audience that he and others they decided to include Johnson only “two weeks ago” and indicated that he admired her and chose her for her “courage” and frankness.
He seemed unaware of the inherent political favor of giving a platform to only one of Oregon’s top three candidates for governor. “It’s not a campaign,” he said of Johnson’s speech at a time when he is spending millions on his campaign for governor.
She is not an official candidate, however. To run in the general election as an independent candidate, Johnson will have to gather 23,743 valid voter signatures, which no one doubts will get an established official with his financial support. He recently launched “Betsy Brigades” across Oregon to bring them together.
The event with tickets featured, as promised, a line-up of intriguing, high-performing speakers, at least half of them people of color, and eight acts or musical performers, including Pink Martini.
Rae defended the option of adding Johnson at the last minute, indicating that courage was needed on the part of his team. “Look, they ask us all the time on our TedxPortand team, ‘Why don’t you get involved in the public service?’
Inviting the $ 9 million career politician in support of Oregon’s powers, including Nike co-founder Phil Knight and a number of wood millionaires, he said, “We’re just trying to have an intimate conversation with 7,000 people with a brave woman, right? “
In the days since a gunman used an assault weapon to brutally kill 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school, much of the national conversation has revolved around gun safety legislation, which make the timing of Johnson’s appearance at the non-political event particularly. full up.
Rae indicated he would be willing to talk to “Tina,” a reference to Democratic candidate Tina Kotek. He didn’t seem to notice that Republican candidate Christine Drazan is also in the running. The very Democratic Portland crowd did not audibly call for him to compare.
In 2014, the last time the NRA publicly valued Johnson as a state Senate candidate, she endorsed her and gave her an A grade. She and Arnie Roblan, a former Coos Bay state senator, were the the only Democrats to receive that recognition that year from the gun rights group.
In one of his most recent votes on gun safety legislation in May 2021, Johnson joined six Republicans in voting against a bill that, among other things, requires guns to be ‘Store them securely, either by placing them in a closed container or using them. a trigger lock and allows school boards to ban guns on school buildings and campuses.
Both houses passed the bill with a small vote, and it was signed by Gov. Kate Brown. Until then, it was legal for holders of hidden transportation permits to carry weapons in all classrooms, gyms, and stadiums in Oregon public schools.
Other Oregon gun laws that Johnson voted “no to” include a 2015 extension of background checks to cover private firearms transfers and a 2017 red flag law that allows judges to issue “extreme risk protection orders” to require a person to surrender his or her weapons temporarily if they pose a risk to themselves or to the people they live with. That law was sponsored by a Republican senator.
His comment on Saturday provoked the biggest negative reaction related to ongoing discussions in Oregon and elsewhere about the assault weapons ban. “The style of the gun doesn’t dictate lethality,” he said, booing.
Johnson received a positive reception for his calls for improved mental health care in Oregon, saying current leaders have only given “lip care.” Johnson was one of three influential co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget committee during the 2019, 2020 and 2021 sessions.
Rae made it clear to his TEDx audience that he is a Johnson fan. Sitting next to him on stage, he told her he had found her “amazing … Your character, your spine. You’re honest, it’s” What you see is what you get. “
Watson reported that the speaker who came after Johnson, the co-founder of the entertainment production company, Vince Kadlubek, said: “I just have to say … no 18-year-old should be able to buy an AR “. Kadlubek also asked the crowd, “Can we check the background?” He received a standing ovation from the event, Watson wrote on Twitter.
Johnson downplayed the amount of opposition he encountered at the event. In a statement to The Oregonian / OregonLive, he said: “Some people tried to close the productive dialogue. It’s a shame, but I’m still naughty.”
– Betsy Hammond; firstname.lastname@example.org