Two farmers from Yamhill County are running for governor. Casey Kulla wonders where the other one went.


Back in July, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla has become the first elected to enter the 2022 Democratic Party primary for governor of Oregon. House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and State Treasurer Tobias Read followed.

But it’s the latest entrant, fellow Yamhill County farmer Nicholas Kristof, who gets Kulla’s biggest rise.

Fifth-generation Oregonian, Kulla is a homeschooled father and cancer survivor who, along with his wife, Katie, grows a variety of crops on 17.5 acres on an island in the Willamette River in Dayton. He’s probably the first statewide candidate to film a campaign ad on a surfboard (he grew up in Newport).

Outnumbered by two Tories on the three-member Yamhill County Commissioners Council, Kulla has found ways to be effective.

“Casey is really smart, incredibly optimistic, and really dedicated to voter service,” said Sal Peralta, city commissioner of McMinnville and co-founder of the Oregon Independent Party.

“Yamhill County can be a tough place,” said State Representative Ron Noble (R-McMinnville). “Even though we have different political ideologies, he is always ready to engage. He has a big heart and always goes all the way.

We asked Kulla about his accomplishments, his ambitions and his best-known neighbor.

WW: Why do you want to be governor?

Casey Kulla: Democrats are working very hard to pass policies on topics like climate change, housing, homelessness and drug addiction, but when we don’t take the whole state with us, we won’t have effective solutions. . I am a progressive democrat in a purple, rural and exurban county. And so, every day, I work with people who have different values ​​from mine, because we all have to come to the yes.

If you were elected, what would be your three main problems?

First, to truly tackle climate change in a comprehensive and equitable manner across the state. Second, tackle the political violence, intimidation and intimidation that are used to undermine democracy. And the cost of housing. Homelessness seems different in every community, but it is present all over Oregon.

Political violence is widely publicized on the streets of Portland. What is the situation in Yamhill County?

You are probably aware of the Newberg School Board situation. It is one of the versions of political intimidation. This is part of the free public education demolition program. We have a high percentage of militia members, 3 Percenters and Proud Boys. I recently met a Proud Boy in McMinnville – he wanted to present his take on Antifa and Portland.

Tell us about the Yamhelas Westsider Trail controversy.

This is a proposal to convert an abandoned rail line into a pedestrian and pedestrian cycle path between the outskirts of McMinnville and the Yamhill-Washington county line at Gaston. The farmers along the trail don’t want people to be near their farms. It’s the short, neutral version of a 12-year story. It has become a political litmus test and lightning rod in the community, and my two colleagues oppose it.

So you are on the wrong side of perhaps the most important and visible problem in the county.

Well, I like to think I’m on the safe side.

As County Commissioner, how would you rate Governor Kate Brown’s handling of the pandemic?

When you look at his immediate response to COVID, we’re healthier because of it. But when Governor Brown invited comments, elected leaders rarely saw their comments incorporated into final policies. When you’re asked for feedback and you don’t see it integrated into something you need to implement in your community, it’s really tough.

Give us an example.

One concerned the closure of restaurants, bars and tasting rooms. Around Thanksgiving last year, many of us said, “We need to know that there is real data showing the transmission because we want to be by your side.” We never had that data.

Tell us about your farm.

We’re on sabbatical right now so my wife can write more and so I can do the job of commissioner and campaign full time. We still grow apples, pears, plums, cherries, raspberries and strawberries and a range of vegetables. We also have a relatively young hazelnut orchard. But we sold our commercial cannabis license in March.

Why should Democratic primary voters choose a new county commissioner over Tina Kotek or Tobias Read?

When I travel around the state, I find that people are looking for someone who is not in the line of succession.

Your neighbor in Yamhill County, Nick Kristof, fits that description. Do you mind seeing him steal your thunder?

Nick and I talk quite regularly. I don’t think our state needs to have someone who hasn’t been around much as governor. I encouraged him to consider running for [new] 6th Congressional District because his ideas about the world and his big picture seem better suited to Congress. I don’t like to speak badly about others and I really like Nick, but none of us who interacted with him regularly in the past knew he lived here.


I reached out to Nick earlier this year when I learned that a mutual friend, Mike Stepp, who features prominently in his new book [Tightrope] was dead. I wanted to make sure Nick knew there was a memorial service at the bus stop where Mike spent most of his days with his friends and family from the homeless community. Nick was nowhere around.

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