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 Patrick Starnes, a Democrat. These answers have not been edited.

Democratic candidate for governor Patrick Starnes.

Democratic candidate for governor Patrick Starnes.

Courtesy of Patrick Starnes

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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.

Patrick Starnes: currently my wife and I restore abandoned old homes. I was elected several times to school boards and feel school board experience should be required for anyone who is serving in Salem as education is the largest part of our State budget.

Why should you be Oregon’s next governor?

Because I am a problem solver and a unifier. I have the experience of serving elbow to elbow with diverse stakeholders in rural areas be it my years of being elected to Soil & Water Conservation Districts or my decade of being appointed to the Umpqua watershed council. I know how to work on common ground and get things done.

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

Campaign finance reform is an issue that impacts all others. It will be impossible to make bold changes to things like health care, the housing crisis, and carbon reform without getting big money out of Oregon’s politics.

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

In my first 100 days in office, I will build a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers to draft legislation that would ban corporate and special interest PAC money and limit individual campaign donations to $1,000. Measure 107 passed overwhelmingly with 78% of the vote and established the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions. The legislature has thus far failed to enact any limits despite the will of the people.

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

Yes. For over 150 years, humans have released fossilized carbon into the atmosphere at an alarming rate creating climate chaos. In addition to the fatalities caused by wildfires, the “heat dome” last June killed hundreds of North Americans! The death toll and destruction from human-caused climate chaos is rising.

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?

Transportation is Oregon’s largest contributor to our carbon footprint, accounting for over one third of our carbon (38%) output. We need to amend the Oregon Constitution to allow us the freedom to use our carbon revenue not just on roads, but to transition away from dependence on fossil-fuel reliant transportation.

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

I support the recent passage of SB762. But we need to guarantee funding for the Oregon Conservation Corps by increasing the timber severance tax. Oregon’s is the lowest in the Pacific Northwest, lower than Idaho, Washington, and California. While the Oregon Conservation Corp will not end wildfires, it will help rural homeowners prepare better for the next one as well as reduce dense fire fuels along our highways and backroads.

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

We should immediately support public entities who manage irrigation canals around our state. Adding solar panels over the irrigation canals to shade them and reduce evaporation will help conserve this valuable water for our Oregon farms. At the same time, we need to produce clean, renewable electricity and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to mitigate future droughts.

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

I absolutely support the use of body cameras for all police departments across Oregon. Body cameras protect citizens and police officers by providing a record of events. As Governor, I would work to make sure there was state funding available to help local municipalities obtain equipment and to avoid any financial barriers.

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.

Extremism is the number one domestic terror threat today. As January 6th has shown, the rising influence of groups like the Proud Boys in Oregon should not be ignored. Their campaign to recruit soldiers from our rural communities to further their stated objective of instigating civil war through threats of violence cannot be tolerated. This rhetoric infects our communities and trickles down to our youth, where rampant bullying in schools victimizes minorities and those that have been othered. As Governor I would immediately set up a task force to address bullying in our schools and another to address political violence and threats.

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?

I would create the Oregon Shelter Fund outside of the General Fund. Revenue will be generated by enacting a vacancy fee on abandoned homes and commercial buildings. This money could be matched with local and federal dollars to provide affordable housing and vital services for the homeless and those in danger of becoming so. As the “Timber Capitol of the World,” Oregon can provide shelter for the unhoused and affordable housing for the working families in tourist dominated areas of Oregon.

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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?

In my 10 years of experience on school boards in Oregon, I learned just how much of a strain PERS debt and healthcare costs are on school budgets, accounting for around (40%). This huge amount of money leaving classrooms contributes to classroom overcrowding and Oregon’s dismal graduation rates. A single-payer health care system in Oregon would guarantee every Oregonian access to care, while simultaneously alleviating the strains of health care costs on schools and businesses. Imagine if we could use that money to reduce class sizes, increase staffing, and fund programs that keep students engaged.

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?

I believe that public schools can provide not just high quality, world-class education but also better pre-K and after school services. As stated above, money saved on a single-payer healthcare system could also be used to fund programs that help to alleviate the childcare crisis.

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

Yes, I see any group that bundles contributions to candidates as having undue influence. Instead, I think that Oregon’s 275,000 Union members should be encouraged to individually contribute to candidates just like non-union members do: unbundled.

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, I completely support CFR and think it is crucial to the health of our democracy by affecting the priorities and policies that originate in the Legislature. I support an individual limit of $1000 per person per year (like 10 other states), along with a ban on corporate donations and special interest PACs. Corporations and PACs are not people.

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?

No

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.

I would NOT propose any new restrictions on abortions in Oregon. I support a woman’s right to choose. I also support full coverage of reproductive health services under OHP.

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

It may seem the urban-rural divide is insurmountable in Oregon. But Oregonians face many common issues regardless of where they live: campaign finance corruption, homelessness, rising healthcare costs, extreme weather, wildfire, and drought. By tackling these common challenges together in a bipartisan way, we can begin to build upon shared successes that will go a long way toward unifying us despite our differences.

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

Access to affordable, quality healthcare is an issue that affects every Oregonian, rural or urban, young or old, conservative or progressive. A single-payer health care system would guarantee every Oregonian access to care, while simultaneously alleviating the strains of health care costs on individuals, schools, and businesses. Perhaps most importantly, healthcare coverage would be transferable when you change jobs!

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

She followed through on her promise to me to amend the Oregon Constitution finally allowing the state to set contribution limits (Measure 107). I am disappointed the former Speaker did not show the leadership to set those limits during the 2021 session after M107 passed with a mandate of 78% of the vote. Shame!

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

I am disappointed the Governor did NOT pressure the 2021 session or the short session of 2022 to set contribution limits immediately for the 2022 elections.

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

There are many leaders in Oregon history I admire but the one who stands out the most is from my childhood: Tom McCall. He was a green visionary with his bottle bill, land use laws, and the Oregon public beach laws.

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