Oregon gubernatorial candidates claim their positions in first debate

The three leading gubernatorial candidates met in their first debate on Friday, July 29. They are (left to right) Republican Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson.

Screenshot of the streamed event

Oregon’s top three gubernatorial candidates had their first chance to shine on Friday, touting their own records while saying they are far better positioned to steer the state past a series of challenges. of size.

Meeting in Welches for a debate hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson tried to chart the political paths they hope will lead to victory in November: Kotek as a consummate progressive, Johnson as the centrist unifier, and Drazan as the agent of change for a state that languishes under one-party control.

The event, broadcast live, was the first opportunity for many voters to see the women together address some of the most pressing issues facing the state, including homelessness, drug abuse, climate change, l Abortion and the Growing Differences Between Urban and Rural Oregonians. This resulted in a lively, and above all substantive, debate that helped clarify the differences and similarities that the candidates bring to these issues.

Drazan, a former House Republican leader, and Johnson, a 20-year-old legislative Democrat who dropped out of the party last year, found many points of agreement when asked about natural resource management and climate change.

Both women support increased logging and more robust forest management, they said, and would both reverse a 2020 executive order from Governor Kate Brown capping and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from certain polluters. Kotek, a former House speaker who has repeatedly pushed for regulations capping carbon emissions, vowed to build on what the state has already done.

On homelessness, the candidates each claimed they would bring urgency to what all agreed was an unacceptable humanitarian crisis.

Kotek, who made housing a policy and funding goal during his tenure in the Legislative Assembly, preached an approach to improve outreach to Oregon’s homeless while increasing shelter space and striving to accelerate housing production.

“I’m the only person on this stage who has worked hard over the past five years to make sure as a legislator that I do what I can,” Kotek said.

Drazan and Johnson countered that they had both been active on the issue — Johnson helping turn a never-used prison in Portland into a shelter — and each hinted at a tougher approach they would use to compel Oregonians homeless to account and reduce public camping.

“What improved during your period [as speaker]Johnson asked Kotek at one point. “We pitched more tents than we got permits, I would say, for housing.”

The three women disagreed most strongly on firearms. As a speaker, Kotek helped pass gun safety bills to expand required background checks, create a mechanism to confiscate guns from people in crisis, and force gun owners to safely store unused weapons. She supports more restrictions, including a measure on the November ballot that would require a license to buy a gun.

Drazan uniformly opposes any new restrictions, but suggested that she respects existing laws and would not try to circumvent them. Johnson, a reliable opponent of gun control in the Legislative Assembly, has since changed her position. She said on Friday she supports raising the age to buy guns to 21 and said she would push for much more aggressive background checks before a person can buy a gun. to fire – including, potentially, school records.

“I would give schools immunity if they come up with data that shows little Johnnie was killing cats or writing dark emails,” Johnson said. “It has to be part of the permanent record that would be subject to a background check.”

Johnson suggested his was a middle ground between Drazan’s inaction and Kotek wanting to “take your guns.” It was a misinterpretation of Kotek’s position with which the former speaker took issue. “It’s really unfortunate and frustrating to have the politicization of an issue that’s really important to people right now,” Kotek said. “People are scared.”

There was more separation between the candidates on abortion. Both Kotek and Johnson support abortion rights, but Kotek said Oregon should take more steps to help make the procedure available, including helping pay for care for people outside the state. ‘State. Johnson disagreed with this spending priority.

Drazan opposes abortion, but, like on guns, seems to suggest that she would have little power to act unilaterally as governor to change state laws. She has signaled her support for changing Oregon’s abortion laws by limiting the availability of the procedure to the third trimester.

Candidates were also able to ask a question to one of their opponents. Kotek used her question to ask Drazan if she believed Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Drazan said she did. Johnson asked Kotek what she would do immediately on homelessness, building on her assertion the Democratic nominee lacked urgency. Kotek talked about expanding outreach teams and building shelters. Drazan asked Johnson why she supported a tax on businesses in 2019. Johnson said she thought taxes might be worth it, but regretted the vote.

Beyond the political specifics, the three women tried to sell voters on Friday a general account of their candidacies.

Kotek, usually a political buff, presented herself as a steady hand with a long leadership experience. She has spoken of falling in love with the state after moving to Oregon in late 1987, and her belief “in the possibility of Oregon and what it could be for everyone who lives here”.

“Being able to deliver results right now is what really matters to Oregonians,” she said in a closing statement. “I know how to work with people and solve problems. I have the track record to show it.

Despite her continued messages to help broker a deal between Republicans and Democrats, Johnson was the most aggressive candidate in the debate. A follower of pithy phrasing, Johnson said Kotek “wants to preserve tent cities and bring the culture wars into your kids’ classroom. She would have woke us all up and broke us. Johnson portrayed Drazan as a right-wing candidate and suggested to repeatedly that she alone could bring a “big, bold change” to the state as a centrist leader.

Drazan argued that she was the only real agent of change in the race, pointing to the influence Kotek and Johnson both wielded as some of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill — Kotek as Speaker of the House, Johnson as senior budget writer.

“They had all the levers of government in their hands. They’ve been in charge,” Drazan said. “We came here because of their choices. … If they knew how to fix it, they would have done it already.

Polls released in the race have been limited but have suggested the race is close months before the Nov. 8 election. Two late June polls — one from the Johnson campaign and the other from Republicans — showed Kotek at or near the front, but varied on whether Drazan or Johnson challenged the Democrat the most.

The race has also confounded political forecasters and is being watched closely by Democrats and National Republicans in part because of the scarcity of three viable candidates in the general election.

When the candidates will meet to debate next is not entirely clear. The three women agreed to attend an Oct. 6 event in Medford, but other potential events were on hold Friday.

Johnson proposed seven talk shows in cities across the state last month. Kotek countered by suggesting eight, including one on gun regulations.

Comments are closed.