Oregon Gubernatorial Candidate Endorses Drug-Dealing Kidnapper for State House

Democrat Tina Kotek endorsed Ramiro Navarro Jr., who hired a known pedophile to work on his campaign

Democratic Oregon gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek and state House candidate Ramirro Navarro Jr. / Instagram
October 18, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore.—Amid rising crime and substance abuse, Oregon's Democratic gubernatorial candidate has thrown her weight behind a state legislature candidate who did time for dealing drugs and kidnapping his two-year-old son.

Tina Kotek this year endorsed Ramiro Navarro Jr. after he entered the race for Oregon's 21st House district. In 2011, Navarro pleaded guilty to dealing marijuana and to coercion after he threatened his wife that it was "the last time" she would see their son before abducting the child, court records show. Police later found a rifle and drug paraphernalia in Navarro's car. He served 18 months in prison and was charged with first-degree child neglect.

Navarro is the latest Oregon Democrat revealed to have a criminal record. Last week, Navarro himself defended knowingly hiring a convicted pedophile as a field director for his campaign. In October, the former Democratic mayor of Beaverton pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of child pornography. Kotek has been accused of ignoring sexual harassment complaints while serving as state House speaker.

Navarro, who has called himself the "second-chance candidate," violated parole after his release by showing up at a family birthday party, apparently stealing his wife's car afterward. Police found Navarro's prison ID card inside the stolen car later, but no charges were filed. His wife took out a restraining order on him after his first conviction, which he also violated in attending the party.

Navarro has made no attempt to hide his criminal past, even noting on his campaign website he has been jailed five or six times since his release. His campaign has focused on affordable housing, health care, child care, protecting access to abortion, and veterans' issues. Navarro, who served in the Oregon National Guard, was discharged after his felony drug conviction.

Kotek and Navarro did not respond to requests for comment. Along with fellow gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson, Kotek voted to decriminalize all drugs held in small amounts in Oregon. Drug overdose deaths due to opioids have more than doubled in the state between 2019 and 2021.

The pedophile Navarro hired was sentenced to six years in prison in 2007 for abusing a child younger than 14. He did not inform other campaign staffers of the man's criminal record when the man was brought onboard. Navarro defended the decision in a statement to the Statesman Journal, saying the sex offender had "paid his debt to society and deserved a chance at meaningful employment."

As recently as March, Navarro failed to appear for a court hearing at which he was found guilty of driving on a suspended license. Curry County Circuit Court fined him $440.

Kotek has not publicly commented on Navarro's criminal record or his hiring of the sex offender. She trails 3 points behind Republican opponent Christine Drazan, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight polling average.