BEND, OR -- The Republican and Democrat running for Oregon's Second Congressional District participated in their first, and perhaps only, debate Friday night, broadcast on KTVZ. They covered topics ranging from health care and forest management, to gun safety.
When asked about her goals for health care, challenger Jamie McLeod Skinner detailed Rep. Greg Walden's record, saying he voted against coverage for pre-existing conditions and held the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) hostage, in protest of the Affordable Care Act, "When I talk about health care, I talk about ideas. It's things like making sure everyone has access to a full range of physical and mental health care. It's making sure we manage costs, making sure there's a high quality of care, care for the caregiver, covering pre-existing conditions and preventative care.
Walden points to his record battling opioid addiction, fighting for care for veterans, and helping allocate funding for local dependency and mental health programs. "I don't know what she's talking about because I've consistently supported children's health insurance programs. And, in fact, I lead the way in the Congress as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, to hear from all sides about how we can improve and expand children's health insurance." Walden says, because of his efforts, CHIP is funded for a full 10 years, for the first time.
The two also differ on the economy. Walden says cutting taxes and lifting regulations have created a "rip-roaring economy." He told McLeod Skinner, "When you've had your own capital on the line, you understand that less regulation and more money means more jobs, greater investment. This is the strongest economy we've had since 1969." She replied that growth is happening nationally, but not locally, "Half the people in our district are still at or near the poverty line, and that's because people are now working two jobs and still not able to put food on our table and a roof over our head." She says there are new jobs, but they're low paying. Walden argued that since the individual tax cuts were made permanent, more people are taking home more money.
During the 60-minute debate, each candidate was allowed to ask the other one question. Incumbent Congressman Walden asked McLeod Skinner why she doesn't support the Forest Resiliency Bill. She answered that it would benefit the fossil fuel industry, to the detriment of renewable energy. "We have opportunities throughout our district- good paying jobs in all sorts of renewable energy: wind, solar, geothermal, biofuel. We should be helping to, instead of subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, subsidizing and incentivizing those businesses so that private sector can grow."
McLeod Skinner's question was a simple, "Where's Walden?" She challenged him on what she called his unwillingness to debate and asked him to commit to two more public forums before ballots go out, "What I'm hearing throughout the district, and what I'm seeing as well, is you're not showing up' you're not listening." He replied, "We're here debating. This is where we should be talking about the issues. I don't think we're going to do any more debates, if that's the answer. McLeod Skinner interrupted, "So, You're saying 'no.' It's a yes or no question." He responded, "If I could continue - We have an opportunity tonight to talk about the issues, and that's where we should be focused." Walden says constituents know he's working for Oregonians, "My history in office has been to work together, find solutions, and pass them into law. That's how you get things done. That's how I've passed more legislation than any member of the Oregon delegation."
Independent Mark Roberts was invited but unable to attend the debate due to illness.