SALEM, Ore. (AP) – The three women who want to be Oregon’s next governor clashed over gun rights, abortion and other hot-button topics in a debate, just six weeks before election day. The debate was held at Oregon State University-Cascades, in Bend, Oregon, and televised and livestreamed by local TV. There are 1 million registered Democrats and 729,000 registered Republicans in Oregon. But there are also 1 million registered voters claiming no party affiliation. Which way they swing come Nov. 8 could be decisive in whether a Republican will be Oregon’s governor for the first time since 1987, or an independent since 1935.
One key difference emerged on the question of gun control. Democrat Tina Kotek is alone in supporting a gun control measure that’s gotten enough voter signatures to get on the ballot this November.
“Senator Johnson and Representative Drazan have A+ ratings with the N.R.A. I think it’s important to make sure our communities can be safe. And as your Governor, I’m going to work hard to do things like, making sure every purchase has a background check,” said Kotek.
Republican Christine Drazan argued the measure wouldn’t prevent incidents like the recent grocery store shooting in Bend which ended with three deaths. “We in fact have some of the strongest and most restrictive gun laws in the nation already. What happened in Bend, was an absolute tragedy. Someone facing extreme mental health challenges was intent on hurting others,” said Drazan.
Independent Betsy Johnson takes a different stance.
“I’m a gun owner. A responsible gun owner. I support raising the age for certain weapons from 18 to 21.”
The three candidates all say they would work to end homelessness.
Drazan explained how she’d focus the state’s resources: “I will declare a homelessness state of emergency. We have got to marshal all resources available. We have got to align all of the efforts that are being, that are being thrown towards homelessness.”
Johnson touted a project she said, is working. “I’m the only one on the stage here that has actually been doing something about homelessness while we’ve been discussing it. I along with other people in Portland helped re-purpose a $65 million wasted jail space and turned it into a place of redemption.”
Kotek argued for her approach. “A specific plan on my website, as it comes to the urgency as it comes to the biggest symptom of our housing crisis, which is unhoused Oregonians. Making sure we get more people on the street working tent by tent with individuals.”
Polls show a very tight race just six weeks from election day.