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Results Are In: Three Key Takeaways from Yesterday’s Gubernatorial Debate

Kotek lays out values and vision for solving Oregon’s problems, Drazan attempts new pivot for the general election, Johnson is called out for multiple mischaracterizations

[Portland, OR] – News coverage of yesterday’s opening debate of the general election highlighted three important takeaways for Oregon’s gubernatorial race.

First, Republican Christine Drazan and conservative Betsy Johnson both continue to oppose action on climate change and gun violence prevention, while Democratic candidate Tina Kotek is laying out that she has the record, values, and vision to tackle Oregon’s biggest challenges.

In addition, two troubling new themes emerged from Drazan and Johnson during the debate, which was hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. 

Drazan, a conservative Republican, is pivoting away from her tactics in the GOP primary. Yesterday her new strategy emerged: she will attempt to downplay the power of the office she is seeking as a way to convince voters that they should ignore her right-wing record. As OPB reported:

“Drazan opposes abortion, but, as on guns, seemed to suggest she’d have little power to act unilaterally as governor to change state laws. She signaled support for altering Oregon abortion laws by limiting the availability of the procedure in the third trimester.”

And finally, Johnson was called out by multiple outlets for mischaracterizing the facts on two key issues during the debate: homelessness and gun safety.

When Johnson tried to attack Tina for her leadership on gun violence prevention, OPB called out Johnson’s “mischaracterization” of Tina’s position and reported on the exchange:

“That was a mischaracterization of Kotek’s stance with which the former speaker took issue. ‘It’s really unfortunate and frustrating to have the politicization of an issue that is really important to people right now,’ Kotek said. ‘People are scared.’”

The Oregon Capitol Chronicle broke news in real time by reporting that Johnson apparently also mischaracterized the level of support for her proposed solution to homelessness, which involves putting people in empty jails. As Julia Shumway reported:

“Johnson said she supports models like one at the former Wapato Jail in north Portland, a never-used jail that since October 2020 has been a sober living space. People pay $250 monthly for a bed and three meals a day, but they must stay sober.

“She said Bend is looking at a similar model in an unused jail, though a Bend city councilor and mayoral candidate, Melanie Kebler, told the Capital Chronicle no such plan is in the works and there isn’t an unused jail. Johnson’s campaign spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for clarification Friday afternoon.”

Here are a few other key points from the coverage of yesterday’s debate:

On Climate Change:

OPB: “Drazan, a former House Republican leader, and Johnson, a 20-year legislative Democrat who ditched the party last year, found plenty to agree on when asked about natural resource management and climate change.”

The Oregonian: “Drazan and Johnson both said they would do everything in their power, if elected, to increase timber harvests in Oregon and help timber manufacturers, including by potentially easing regulations on pollution.”

The Oregonian

“‘Climate change is real and we need to have solutions,’ Kotek said. ‘I’m the only one up here who’s gonna make that happen.’ 

“Drazan and Johnson, a former longtime Democratic lawmaker, both helped to kill versions of a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade plan, which Drazan called a ‘monstrosity.’ The bill’s failure prompted Oregon’s current Democratic governor to take executive action. Johnson and Drazan said they would tear up Brown’s executive order and cut regulations on climate-warming emissions if elected.”

On Housing and Homelessness:

Oregon Capital Chronicle

“Kotek described her work on Project Turnkey, which launched with $65 million in 2020 to convert unused hotels and motels into emergency housing. It resulted in about 900 new shelter beds in 13 counties before lawmakers added a combined $60 million in 2021 and 2022. 

“Ending the homelessness crisis will require increased shelter space, more housing and teams that can work with homeless people to get them the resources they need, Kotek said. 

“‘This is complex, and there is not one single way to solve it,’ she said. ‘You need to do all of it. It’s a personal issue on the ground, making sure people who are hurting right now get the services they need to move to a place with a locked door, and then get into permanent housing, and we need more housing.’”

OPB: “‘I’m the only person on this stage who’s been working hard over the last five years to make sure as a legislator that I do what I can,’” Kotek said.”

On Gun Violence Prevention:

Oregon Capital Chronicle: “‘When it comes to gun safety legislation and common sense, evidence-based approaches to reduce violence, I’m going to be there every time,’ Kotek said.”

OPB: “The three women most sharply diverged on guns. As speaker, Kotek helped push through gun safety bills to expand required background checks, create a mechanism to confiscate guns from people in crisis, and force gun owners to safely stow weapons not in use.”

OPB: “Drazan uniformly opposes any further restrictions but suggested she respects existing laws and would not try to circumvent them. Johnson, a reliable opponent of gun control while in the Legislature, has since shifted her stance.”

Oregon Capital Chronicle: “Drazan said she sees no need for additional restrictions. ‘Oregon’s current laws on the books in this particular category are doing a good job of safeguarding safety in our state right now,’ she said.”

On Reproductive Rights:

Portland Tribune: “‘We are in too big of a moment in our country to say no to women who need access to care,’” Kotek said. “‘And I’m the only person in this race who is a champion on this issue, who has believed in access to health care — and that is what abortion is — and that’s why I’m backed by Planned Parenthood and Pro Choice Oregon.’”

Oregon Capital Chronicle: “And Kotek, who has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, said she backs the Oregon abortion laws she helped pass and supports using state resources to maintain access to abortion, even for non-Oregonians. ‘We’re in too big of a moment in our country to say no to women who need access to care,’ she said.”

The Oregonian: “‘We’re in too big of a moment in our country to say ‘no’ to women who need care,’” Kotek said. “‘This is not a moment for halfsies.’”

On Leadership and Solving Problems:

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

Portland Tribune: “‘No matter what the other candidates say today, there are no quick fixes,’” she said. “‘There are no miracle cures to take on these large challenges. Only hard work is going to allow us to ensure that every part of our state can thrive.’”

Portland Tribune: “‘I am sure I know how to work with people and solve problems because I have a track record to show that,’ she added.”

Oregon Capital Chronicle

“Kotek, who was the speaker of the Oregon House for nine years, argued that she alone has the experience to solve pressing issues facing Oregon, ranging from homelessness to inflation to addiction. 

“‘No matter what the other candidates say here today, there are no quick fixes,’ Kotek said. ‘There are no miracle cures. Only hard work is going to allow us to ensure that every part of our state can thrive.’”

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