OPB asked all 34 candidates seeking the Republican or Democratic nomination for governor to answer some basic questions on the issues. Below are responses from Tina Kotek, a Democrat and former speaker of the Oregon House. These answers have not been edited.

To start, please give us your name and basic biographical details, including your current position or job, any elected offices you have held and any key facts you would like voters to know about you.

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Tina Kotek, former State Representative and Oregon Speaker of the House. I am proud to have served as Oregon’s longest-serving House Speaker. Prior to holding public office, I worked as a public policy advocate for Oregon Food Bank and the policy director for Children First for Oregon.

Why should you be Oregon’s next governor?

Oregon faces major challenges, and we need a governor who’s shown the ability to get big things done and the commitment to fight for Oregonians. I started my career at Oregon Food Bank. I traveled around the state, sitting with Oregonians, listening to their stories about why they needed to access emergency food. I learned that it wasn’t just about food: it was about low wages, the cost of housing, and the burden of medical debt. These stories have been my guiding light ever since. That’s why I have been so focused on delivering results to make life better for Oregonians.

As House Speaker, I made sure that we raised the minimum wage, increased funding for our schools by $1 billion a year, protected and expanded access to health care – including reproductive health care – and led the way to increase funds to address homelessness and protect renters from unfair evictions and rent gouging. None of this was easy – it took leadership, coalition building, and backbone. As your Governor, you can count on me to listen to you, stand up for you, and fight for you, because that’s what I’ve been doing for more than 20 years.

What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing Oregon today?

Housing and homelessness. We have an unacceptable humanitarian emergency on our sidewalks and in our neighborhoods. We need to bring more urgency to helping people experiencing homelessness get into shelters and transitional housing so they can get stable and into permanent housing. This includes improving access to mental health and addiction services. The longer term solution is dramatically increasing the overall amount of housing in our state. We have a shortage of at least 111,000 homes right now, with the greatest shortage being homes that are affordable to lower-income families. We need to build about 36,000 new homes each year over the next decade to meet the needs of our communities. Our housing crisis is a public health issue, a public safety issue, and an economic security issue.

What is your proposed solution to that problem? Please be specific.

As House Speaker, I used every tool at my disposal to help local leaders get more people stable and off the streets, including taking on new projects like Project Turnkey. I secured $75 million in funding for Project Turnkey, which converts motels and hotels into shelter space for unhoused Oregonians. In less than 7 months, we were able to create 19 new shelters in 13 counties.

As your Governor, I will lead a comprehensive approach to tackling our housing and homelessness crisis, focusing on these five priorities:

1. End unsheltered homelessness for veterans, families with children, unaccompanied young adults, and people 65 years and older by 2025, and continue to strengthen pathways to permanent housing for all Oregonians experiencing homelessness.

2. Build enough housing to meet the need for people currently experiencing homelessness, address the current shortage of housing, and keep pace with future affordable housing demand by 2033.

3. Advance racial equity by reducing the racial homeownership gap by 20 percent by 2027.

4. Keep people housed who are currently on the brink of homelessness.

5. Encourage intergovernmental and private sector partnerships to have more effective and efficient responses to solving this crisis.

If we’re going to solve Oregon’s housing crisis, we need both near-term and long-term strategies. This is a complex problem, and thus we cannot have tunnel vision and only focus on getting our neighbors off of the street and into stable homes (although this is very important). We also need to address the root causes of the crisis by ensuring affordable housing options for Oregonians, building more homes to meet the needs of our growing communities, and getting Oregonians the resources and support to remain stable. As Governor, I will move Oregon forward on meeting both the immediate challenges and tackling the root causes of this crisis.

Do you believe human beings are playing a part in rising temperatures?

Yes. Today’s climate change is caused by the actions of human beings, and we all have a role to play in the solutions. Here’s the truth: Oregonians are experiencing the symptoms of climate change right now - droughts, wildfires, flooding, and severe heat waves are impacting our lives and communities. It is critical that Oregon’s next Governor be committed to tackling this crisis head on. As House Speaker, I made sure that we passed landmark legislation to transition Oregon to 100% clean electricity by 2040. And, under my leadership, we passed a first-in-the-nation law to completely transition our state off dirty coal-fired power by 2033. There is no candidate in the race for Governor who has done more to combat climate change and support Oregonians impacted by climate change. That’s why the Oregon League of Conservation Voters has endorsed me for Governor.

Do you think Oregon should take additional steps to address climate change? If so, what are some specific efforts you’d undertake or push for as governor?

Yes. Climate change is not theoretical to Oregonians – it is real for us, right now. From heat waves to wildfires to droughts and flooding, our communities are experiencing the impacts of climate change. We need to be bold in our approach. As House Speaker, I made sure that we took strategic steps to combat climate change by transitioning our state to 100% clean electricity by 2040, passing a first-in-the-nation law to end the use of dirty coal-fired power by 2035, and reducing air pollution from cars and trucks with the Clean Fuels Program.

We need to protect and build on the progress we have made. As Governor, I will work to decrease pollution from transportation by increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles and increasing investments in public transportation. I will work to transition Oregon away from the use of fossil fuels like methane gas in homes and commercial buildings and increase climate resiliency for communities on the frontline of extreme weather events, including protecting people who have to work outside and supporting community-level technical assistance for small family farms and ranches.

As we transition to a clean energy future, we need to leave no one behind and make sure that this transition is an opportunity to create good living wage jobs for Oregonians around the state.

Oregon has experienced a high number of severe wildfires in recent years. What role should state government play in wildfire response?

First and foremost, the state absolutely has a responsibility to protect communities from the devastating impacts of wildfires. As House Speaker, I took action, working alongside leaders from rural Oregon, to pass comprehensive legislation to build community resilience in responding to and preventing wildfires, including:

- Requiring the Department of Forestry to develop a comprehensive statewide map of wildfire risk to better identify and alert vulnerable populations and communities of potential threats.

- Requiring the state to adopt new wildfire hazard mitigation standards when constructing new buildings so our communities are more resilient to potential disasters in the future.

- Creating a wildfire emergency shelter program because every Oregonian impacted by wildfires deserves access to support in the face of disaster.

- Funding programs to provide filtration systems to address wildfire smoke to help mitigate the public health impacts of wildfires on our communities.

- Investing in workforce training programs to help train up young Oregonians to manage our forest lands so that we can grow the pipeline to train and prepare a workforce to prevent and respond to wildfires in the future.

As Governor, I will also advocate strongly to the federal government that they do more to respond to wildfire risk and help communities recover when wildfires happen. In a recent visit to Southern Oregon, I was appalled to learn that FEMA was going to start charging people displaced by the 2020 Labor Day wildfires ridiculous rents to stay in their trailers. We need to work together at the state and local level to ensure that every impacted Oregonian gets the help that they need.

Parts of Oregon now routinely face drought conditions. What role should state government play in preventing and responding to droughts?

The state should be a collaborative partner with local leaders to make sure we maximize our water resources in the most efficient and effective ways. As House Speaker, I supported increased investments in necessary studies and new approaches for water conservation and usage. Climate change is causing longer and more frequent drought periods. As Governor, I will advocate for new investments in water infrastructure and convene the regional conversations that are instrumental to helping communities be more resilient.

Do you support the use of body cameras by police officers to record their interactions with the public? Please explain why or why not.

Yes. Body cameras are utilized across our state and around the country to promote transparency and accountability. They can also help grow trust between impacted communities and law enforcement. Body camera footage should be used in a way to ensure that justice prevails.

President Joe Biden signaled in his State of the Union address that he wants to increase funding for police. Do you agree or disagree?

Agree

In surveys, Oregonians on both the right and the left described political extremism as one of the biggest challenges facing the state. Do you agree with them? If yes, please describe the type of extremism that concerns you and what you would do as governor to address it.

Hate and violence have no place in Oregon. To solve our problems, we need to come together as a state and have respectful conversations where everyone can be included. When political views become extreme, and that extremism incites hate and violence, that is unacceptable. When I was serving as House Speaker, one of my colleagues let violent protesters into the Oregon Capitol, just weeks before the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. I took immediate action and made sure the Oregon House held him accountable, which led to his expulsion.

In surveys, Oregonians consistently rate homelessness and high housing costs as a major problem facing the state. What role do you believe state government should play in addressing these interconnected problems?

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Homelessness is an unacceptable humanitarian emergency on our sidewalks and in our neighborhoods. As Governor, I will bring more urgency to helping people experiencing homelessness get into shelters and transitional housing so they can get stable and into permanent housing. This includes improving access to mental health and addiction services.

To do this, we need to break down bureaucracy and red tape and get things moving. No more excuses – it’s time for swifter action to get things done.

As House Speaker, I have used every tool at my disposal to move the needle forward: I have prioritized funding for shelters and other supportive services, I have ensured that we are getting rental assistance to the Oregonians who need it so that more Oregonians aren’t finding themselves on the streets. And, I’ve done this work by thinking outside the box - securing $75 million to convert motels and hotels into shelters, growing our state’s shelter supply in 13 counties by 20% in less than one year.

The longer term solution is dramatically increasing the overall amount of housing in our state. We have a shortage of at least 111,000 homes right now, with the greatest shortage being homes that are affordable to lower-income families. We need to build about 36,000 new homes each year over the next decade to meet the needs of our communities. Our housing crisis is a public health issue, a public safety issue, and an economic security issue.

As your Governor, I will lead a comprehensive approach to tackling our housing and homelessness crisis, focusing on these five priorities:

1. End unsheltered homelessness for veterans, families with children, unaccompanied young adults, and people 65 years and older by 2025, and continue to strengthen pathways to permanent housing for all Oregonians experiencing homelessness.

2. Build enough housing to meet the need for people currently experiencing homelessness, address the current shortage of housing, and keep pace with future affordable housing demand by 2033.

3. Advance racial equity by reducing the racial homeownership gap by 20 percent by 2027.

4. Keep people housed who are currently on the brink of homelessness.

5. Encourage intergovernmental and private sector partnerships to have more effective and efficient responses to solving this crisis.

If we’re going to solve Oregon’s housing crisis, we need both near-term and long-term strategies. This is a complex problem, and thus we cannot have tunnel vision and only focus on getting our neighbors off of the street and into stable homes (although this is very important). We also need to address the root causes of the crisis by ensuring affordable housing options for Oregonians, building more homes to meet the needs of our growing communities, and getting Oregonians the resources and support to remain stable. As Governor, I will move Oregon forward on meeting both the immediate challenges and tackling the root causes of this crisis.

Would you support requiring people experiencing homelessness to stay in shelters if adequate shelter space exists?

Yes

Oregon’s high school graduation rate continues to lag behind other states. What are specific actions you would take as governor to improve student performance?

Every Oregon child should have a safe place to receive a high-quality public education. Unlike other states, Oregon has had an underfunded public education system for three decades. That’s why I fought to pass the Student Success Act, landmark legislation that brings in an additional $1 billion to schools every year. As Governor, I will be focused on making sure these new investments expand access to early learning, increase graduation rates, and strengthen career and technical education. I will work with parents, students, and educators to ensure we can create a system where every Oregon child succeeds.

Oregon, like much of the rest of the nation, has a child care crisis. What role should the governor play in this situation, and what are specific steps you would take as governor?

Every working family needs access to affordable child care options in all parts of the state. As Governor, I will ensure that recent investments we have made in child care deliver the results we need and expand access to child care above pre-pandemic levels. I will make investments in community based child care to make these programs more accessible and work to cut down on red tape that makes it harder to provide child care in Oregon.

It is also important to develop a stronger pipeline of early childhood professionals and support the current workforce with increased professional development opportunities.

Do public employee unions have too much influence in Oregon? If you answer yes, please tell us which unions in particular concern you.

Unions represent nurses, educators, home care workers, plumbers, carpenters, janitors, child care providers, and workers of all types. I am proud to stand with workers and proud to have their support for my campaign. Oregon’s unions are fighting for Oregon’s middle class, for our workers who need a voice to ensure they are paid what they deserve and treated with dignity on the job. I stand up for working families because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

As governor, would you support the creation of campaign finance limits in Oregon? If no, please explain why not. If yes, please can us specifics on what limits you would endorse.

Yes. Oregon voters overwhelmingly supported a change to the Oregon Constitution to allow for campaign finance limits. As House Speaker, I made sure that we passed campaign finance limits through the House to restore voter confidence in how campaigns are funded. Unfortunately, that plan stalled in the State Senate and didn’t make it to Governor Brown’s desk. I support contribution limits and expanded transparency to shine a light on dark money in politics.

Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election?

Yes

Would you support creation of a sales tax in Oregon?

No

Do you support the use of tolls to help pay for infrastructure constructions in the Portland region, including a replacement for the Interstate 5 bridge?

Yes

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, would you as governor push for new abortion restrictions in Oregon? If yes, please specify what type of restriction you would propose.

Absolutely not. As House Speaker, I led the way to pass the nation’s strongest abortion access law. Under my leadership, we codified the right to choose in Oregon, no matter what the Supreme Court decides. And, under my leadership, we ensured that every Oregonian who needs access to reproductive health care can get it, without barriers. It’s because of my leadership on this issue that I have been endorsed by Oregon’s three leading reproductive rights organizations: Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon, Pro-Choice Oregon PAC and The Mother PAC.

Everyone deserves the right to make personal health care decisions regardless of their income or zip code. As your Governor, I will always stand firm in my commitment to defend reproductive freedom for every Oregonian.

How would you describe the relationship between rural and urban Oregon today?

Right now, people are having a hard time coming together as Oregonians. Interestingly though, as I have been listening to Oregonians across the state in urban, suburban, and rural areas, they raise the same concerns. They talk about wanting their kids to get a good education and be able to afford to buy a home in their community. They think we need to do dramatically more to help people experiencing homelessness get into stable housing. And many talk about experiencing the impacts of climate change. I have a lot of faith in Oregonians that we can come together to do what’s best for our state.

What’s one thing you would do as governor to bring rural and urban Oregon together?

Most politicians will make big promises that they will bring Oregonians together. The truth is, there is no quick fix for unity. It takes determination and it takes everyone pitching in. Here’s what I promise: I will work hard, I will listen to everyone, and I will spend as much time as possible in communities across Oregon to solve problems WITH you.

What’s the best thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?

There are a lot of Oregonians walking around today, alive and well, because Governor Brown took decisive action at the beginning of the pandemic. There was no playbook for how governors should respond to this crisis, and while a lot of the public health measures weren’t easy, Governor Brown’s leadership kept a lot of Oregonians alive, and I’m grateful for that.

What’s the worst thing Kate Brown has done as Oregon governor?

The failure to deliver unemployment benefits to Oregonians in need was unacceptable. If I had been Governor in 2020, there would have been a change in agency leadership sooner and a more hands-on approach to that crisis.

Name another Oregon leader, either current or in the past, whose approach to public policy you admire and why.

Vera Katz embodied a lot of the qualities I admire in leadership. Vera was a policy wonk who always saw the connection between those policies and the lives of everyday Oregonians. She started as a community activist, organizing to protect her neighborhood from a freeway that would have destroyed it and calling out gender discrimination. She was a pioneer in the legislature as Oregon’s first woman Speaker, delivering countless legislative advances. And she made a successful transition to extraordinary executive leadership as the mayor of Portland. She was principled, fearless, effective and had the ability to inspire. Particularly unforgettable was how, when the Willamette River threatened to flood downtown Portland in 1996, Vera called on Portlanders to come to the seawall with sandbags, hammers, and plywood. Her leadership was actually strong enough to hold back the waters.


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