WELCHES, OR -- The three candidates running for Governor in Oregon faced off in their first formal debate of the general election season, Friday, hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
Republican Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek, and Independent Betsy Johnson each insisted they are the right person to address current and future challenges. In opening statements, Drazan said, "I’m running for Governor because I believe, with single party control, that politicians have lost sight of serving everyday Oregonians. And this year is about making a change." Kotek claimed, "Oregonians deserve a strong, effective leader that can get the work done and deliver results. And that’s why I’m running for governor; to make sure we can bring people together, listen to each other’s concerns." and Johnson added, "If there was ever a clarion call for real change it’s right now. Oregonians are distrustful of the radical right and they are terrified of the progressive left."
On the homeless crisis, former House Speaker Kotek told the group she’s already working on solutions, "I have a five-point plan on my website that specifically starts off by talking about the urgency of helping people move from the streets into permanent housing. And the key to that is to make sure we have more organized street response teams."
Johnson - a former Democratic State Senator - said homelessness is tied to drug use and mental illness, "We all talk about homelessness but we have not infused a sense of urgency about it. As governor, I would convene public safety, social service experts, mental health experts."
And Drazan, aformer State House Republican Leader, called the issue non-partisan, "What we have been experiencing in Oregon right now has enabled this problem to spiral out of control. And it will only get better if Oregonians themselves, and the people who are leading in local governments and the state level are willing to look at these challenges on a person-by-person basis."
During the more than one-hour debate in Welches, candidates also covered concerns about climate change, a lack of mental health services, and the Greater Idaho Movement.