OPB asked the three leading candidates for governor to explain their stances on a wide range of challenges facing Oregon. Here are Democrat Tina Kotek’s unedited responses.
Housing and homelessness
Housing supply in Oregon has not kept pace with the population growth, and the state continues to fall behind every year. What is your plan to increase housing stock?
The housing supply crisis has been decades in the making and is being felt in every corner of our state. As House Speaker, I led the way to begin the arduous work of addressing our severe housing shortage, including investing over a billion dollars to build more affordable housing and maintain the current supply of affordable housing, removing barriers to housing development, allowing for more housing options, and more. But there is much more work to do. My priority on day one will be to start implementing my plan to tackle Oregon’s housing crisis.
We simply have to get more serious about building a lot more housing. The goal will be to build enough housing to meet the need for people currently experiencing homelessness, address the current shortage of housing, and keep pace with future housing demand over the next decade. I’ll start by issuing an executive order on Day One to create a long-term plan to build enough homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities to meet this goal. I will push forward a comprehensive legislative package, including strategies for:
● Encouraging innovation, streamlining permitting processes, and helping housing developers scale up to build more homes;
● Meeting local housing production targets in an equitable way;
● Expanding and supporting our construction workforce; and
● Funding affordable housing development at the scale needed to truly end this crisis and ensure that every person has a place to call home.
To be successful, all Oregonians will need to work together, in every part of the state, and there will need to be strong collaboration with the private sector. As Governor, I will use every tool at my disposal to achieve our shared goal of having enough housing for everyone.
What is your plan to increase housing affordability?
Housing supply and affordability are complimentary, so a key strategy to increase affordability is to build more housing (see first question).
Oregon also needs to support the construction of different housing options like townhomes, duplexes and triplexes in our neighborhoods. As Speaker, I led the effort to pass a groundbreaking policy that re-legalized these missing housing types that are a great option for families hoping to purchase their first home and seniors who want to age in their communities. As Governor, I will continue to support the successful implementation of this law.
In addition, we have to create a statewide, long-term rent assistance program to help very low-income Oregonians stay housed and improve access to home ownership by increasing down payment assistance, access to secondary loans, and homeownership education through culturally specific organizations.
Should the state’s land-use laws be changed? If so, how? If not, why?
Like most Oregonians, I strongly support the vision of Oregon’s land use system, which protects the forests, farmland, and natural areas that make our state such an amazing place to call home. Our land use laws were also designed to support growth within urban growth boundaries and make sure there is adequate housing as our population increases. As Governor, I would build on my record of bold land use reform and take further action to make sure that the system as a whole is working as intended.
For example, I led the effort to re-legalize housing options that had previously been banned in cities around the state. When I introduced that bill in 2019, duplexes weren’t allowed on 77% of the land that was zoned for homes in Portland. Now, every city with a population higher than 10,000 must allow the construction of duplexes wherever stand-alone homes already go.
In 2021, I also pushed to pass a bill to help local governments cut through red tape so they can more quickly create emergency shelters for our neighbors without homes. House Bill 2006 allowed local governments to waive design, planning and zoning regulations to approve the siting of emergency shelters (while still complying with certain building codes and public health and safety requirements).
Should there be a quicker, less burdensome way to expand urban growth boundaries? If not, why? If yes, how would you accomplish that?
We must balance our housing needs with being good stewards of the land that is in our care. If cities have truly done everything they can to plan for and meaningfully achieve housing development within their urban growth boundary (UGB), then there should be a less burdensome path to expand the UGB for housing. This will require increased public investment in infrastructure to make sure land planned for housing, both within the UGB and in future growth areas, can actually be developed successfully.
Improved planning for housing will bring clarity to UGB expansion discussions. My bill in 2019 requires Oregon’s cities over 10,000 people to develop strategies that will encourage the production of the housing that their residents need.
What needs to be done to address racial disparities that exist in Oregon housing today due to public policies that were discriminatory in the past?
Improving housing choices and housing affordability in all neighborhoods will help Oregon correct for past discriminatory practices. I’m also the only candidate that has a specific plan to reduce the racial homeownership gap by 20 percent by 2027 by:
● Increasing down payment assistance, access to secondary loans, and homeownership education through culturally specific organizations to reach Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) households across the state;
● Expanding opportunities for homeownership by supporting community land trusts and shared equity homeownership programs as anti-displacement strategies;
● Promoting affordable homeownership by developing diverse affordable housing types like duplexes, triplexes, and quads in high opportunity areas for homeownership; and
● Cracking down on discrimination by partnering with the federal government and community organizations to enforce fair housing laws more effectively in Oregon.
Should Oregon be subsidizing more housing? If so, where and what type of housing? And where would the money come from?
Yes. A recent assessment of statewide housing needs in Oregon found that we have a shortage of almost 85,000 units that people earning low incomes (less than 80% of the average median income) can actually afford. Experts have shown that the private market cannot deliver new housing that is affordable at this level without public support. The state needs to identify an ongoing revenue source to help address this gap, and we also need more help from the federal government. The federal government has abandoned their commitment to affordable housing. As Governor, I will bring our federal partners to the table to do their fair share to make sure we have enough affordable housing for everyone who needs it in Oregon.
In terms of housing types, these are decisions that local communities make with extensive public input. As Governor, I will work with local governments to build more affordable housing and ensure that it is equitably available in every neighborhood.
What are your thoughts on Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to consider how to reduce climate pollution when creating new housing?
I think increasing the supply of affordable housing will help Oregon reach its climate goals because of reduced transportation emissions from shorter commutes and the creation of more walkable or transit-friendly communities. I just met with local business leaders in Springfield, and it was helpful to hear directly from them about how the rulemaking connected to this executive order will impact them locally. I support getting more resources to local governments to help implement the executive order. We need to keep pushing forward on efforts to reduce pollution and build resilient communities, while also taking feedback from local leaders and giving them the support they need to be successful.
Do you think the “middle housing” bill to allow for the creation of duplexes and triplexes on any lot of a city with a population of more than 10,000 will work as planned? Does it need to be tweaked at all?
It is already working – cities are reporting development of these housing types. I was proud to spearhead this effort, and local leaders across Oregon are pointing to the bill as a reason their communities are building more homes that middle class families can afford, especially young people and seniors on fixed incomes who are at risk of being priced out of their communities.
In 2019, I also introduced a related bill that will help us answer your question about whether the “middle housing” bill is moving the needle or if other housing solutions are needed. The Housing Needs and Production Bill (HB 2003) ensured that Oregon’s large cities would develop meaningful action plans to build housing in their communities. The bill also resulted in the first ever statewide assessment of housing need by affordability level. Better data will guide us to better solutions.
Going forward, I will fight for strategies to build affordable “middle housing” in communities around the state, especially in high opportunity areas for home ownership. I will also listen to local communities and work in collaboration to support their work to meet their specific housing needs. Local leaders are working hard, and as Governor, I will partner with them in this incredibly important work.
Who would you appoint to lead the head of the Department of Land Conservation and Development?
The director of DLCD is appointed by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission. The seven commissioners are unpaid citizen volunteers, and the statute establishing the commission requires that they represent certain regions of the state. I would look for engaged, qualified people to serve on the Commission to ensure continuous and solid leadership of this agency.
Have you ever been a landlord? If so, could you share details of what type of property you owned or own?
I have never been a landlord. But I have been a renter, and I understand the uncertainty that an unexpected rent increase can bring to your life. That’s why I fought to pass a first-in-the-nation law to establish caps on rent increases and prevent rent gouging.
I also respect property owners who are providing housing options across the state. That’s why my housing plan includes creating a Housing Provider Council that consists of private landlords, affordable housing providers, and tenant rights advocates to address barriers to keeping tenants housed.
What housing policy have you either sponsored or voted on has been the most meaningful and why?
All three candidates for Governor held leadership positions in the Oregon Legislature. But I am the only one who used my time in office to tackle Oregon’s housing crisis head on. Year after year, I successfully fought for billions of dollars and dozens of policy changes that are helping real people, every day, including:
● Securing $215 million to prevent the eviction of thousands of renters during the COVID public health emergency;
● Securing more than $1.5 billion to increase housing access, shelter capacity, rent assistance, and other housing needs.
● Securing $75 million for Project Turnkey, an innovative program that turns vacant motels into emergency shelters. In its first seven months, Project Turnkey increased the state’s supply of shelter beds by 20%, adding 865 new housing units for people in need.
● Challenging the status quo by passing laws to:
○ Protect renters by establishing just eviction standards and prohibiting extreme rent increases.
○ Require local governments to take meaningful action to address their local housing crisis and require the state to assess housing needs over the next 20 years so we can comprehensively tackle this crisis.
○ Legalize more housing options for Oregon families by eliminating red tape and allowing construction of more housing options like duplexes, triplexes, cottage clusters and townhomes.
○ Streamline the process to build and regulate emergency shelters and new affordable housing.
There’s no doubt that the housing crisis is one of the most urgent issues we face as a state – we’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. But the situation on our streets and in our neighborhoods could actually be much worse, and Betsy Johnson and Christine Drazan actually fought against most of the progress we have been able to make. It’s easy for politicians to drive past tents in downtown Portland and criticize the “status quo.” But Oregonians are too fed up for that to fly anymore. I am the only candidate with a track record of identifying and passing real, concrete housing solutions. We don’t have time to waste, and as Governor, I will build on my strong foundation of effective action to make sure every single Oregonian has a safe and stable home that they can afford.
What do you believe are the specific causes of Oregon’s homelessness crisis?
Oregon’s housing and homelessness crisis is complex and didn’t happen overnight. There are three main reasons for what we’re seeing today:
● Oregon has a housing supply and housing affordability problem. These things go hand in hand. The simple truth is there is not enough housing available to meet the needs of our communities, and there isn’t enough housing a lot of people can afford. Oregon currently has a shortage of at least 111,000 homes and we need to build 36,200 new homes every year for the next 10 years to close the gap.
● Oregon’s homelessness services system is too fragmented and existing resources must be better coordinated at the local level. Three years ago, a study said Oregon was one of only four states where more than half of all people experiencing homelessness were living outside. The state agency in charge did not have an action plan to coordinate a statewide response and then the pandemic started.
● Oregon is just now recovering from chronic underfunding of critical assistance to vulnerable Oregonians who simply cannot work and afford housing due to a serious mental illness, addiction, or disability.
There are solutions to these challenges. As Governor, I will issue an executive order on Day One that will get everyone focused on building enough homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities to meet our goals. I am going to make sure the Oregon Health Authority does a better job of utilizing the $500 million they have to expand access to mental health care and strengthen capacity in Oregon’s behavioral health system statewide. I will advocate for more resources to train and support street outreach teams to help people get into shelters and on a path to permanent housing. And I will not allow any more excuses of why local providers and governments can’t work better together.
What is a metric you will use to gauge your administration’s success on homelessness? What is a reasonable timetable for meeting that metric?
We will need both output and outcome metrics that are transparent and accountable. For example, an output would be “how often does someone living on the streets have consistent and reliable contact with a street outreach team?” Measuring success would be based on how many Oregonians experiencing homelessness have moved into permanent housing and how many households at risk of homelessness have not lost their housing. One of my specific goals is to end unsheltered homelessness for veterans, families with children, unaccompanied young adults, and people 65 years and older by 2025. Within the first 30 days of entering office, I will form a special emergency management team to work directly with local governments and community leaders to address the urgent needs of veterans, families with children, unaccompanied young adults, and people 65 years and older who are living outside. Finally, this is a humanitarian crisis that also impacts local businesses, families, and neighborhood livability. I will immediately start cleaning up the trash in our streets by partnering with local governments and expanding easy-entry jobs programs to employ people to do clean up.
What type of homeless shelters are the most effective? Low barrier? Or those that require something from residents? Where should they be located?
The severity of the crisis requires as many shelter options in as many locations as possible. Shelters should be part of a comprehensive crisis response system that includes direct street outreach and strong collaboration across local service providers to make sure we’re connecting people with the services, funds, and assistance to help them move off the streets. Simultaneously, we need to focus on building more housing of all kinds, but especially permanent supportive housing, which is a best practice to help people who have been chronically homeless. That’s the only way to meet our growing population needs and reduce the need for emergency shelter. That’s why I spent my last five years as Speaker sounding the alarm and securing more than $1.5 billion in targeted investments to increase housing access, shelter capacity, rent assistance, and other housing needs, including:
● $765 million in investments for affordable housing and permanent supportive housing, down payment assistance, homeless services, tenant support, and more (2021 session).
● Leading the Emergency Board to invest more than $500 million in rental assistance and other housing supports in 2020, including $75 million for Project Turnkey, a program that converts hotels and motels into shelter space. In under seven months, we were able to expand the state’s shelter capacity by 20%. (Johnson and Drazan criticized the program and even voted against it at critical points during its development and expansion.)
● New protections for renters, including:
● Protection from no cause evictions and extreme rent increases (SB 608, 2019; Drazan and Johnson voted no)
● Protections for Oregonians who couldn’t pay rent due to impacts from the pandemic and $150 million to help small landlords cover overdue rent payments. (HB 4401, Third Special Session of 2020; Drazan voted no and Johnson failed to vote.) When it comes to our housing and homelessness crisis, my philosophy is that we must get to “yes” – we have to do the hard work to have bold, urgent solutions and follow through to ensure that they are being executed as promised and accountable for delivering real results.
Was Project Turnkey a good idea? Should it be expanded?
Yes and yes. The innovative idea of converting existing motels and hotels into transitional shelters should be expanded wherever possible. As House Speaker, I championed and secured the initial $75 million investment in Project Turnkey, which successfully expanded the state’s shelter capacity by 20% in less than seven months. I have visited Project Turnkey sites around the state and heard directly from Oregonians who made their way into stable housing because of Project Turnkey. It works, and I applaud the local leaders who stepped up to make things happen in their communities. Voters should know that former Senator Betsy Johnson tried to block this innovative housing solution when it came before the legislature’s Emergency Board in the first six months of the pandemic, and former Representative Christine Drazan voted against a bill to expand the program after it had proven successful. That’s not leadership on solving our homelessness crisis.
How would you suggest helping people move beyond homeless shelters and into more permanent housing?
A key strategy is to provide more affordable housing, and especially permanent supportive housing. As House Speaker, I led the effort to invest in affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing, which specifically helps people who have experienced chronic homelessness. As Governor, I will partner with the private sector to make sure we are investing in the right mix of affordable housing, based on the data that tells us what Oregonians actually need. For people who have experienced chronic homelessness, we will need options that are affordable to people with very low incomes and provide wrap-around services. Other households experiencing homelessness don’t need services – they just need an affordable place to live. For these families, we need to build more housing that is more affordable. We have the data we need to take targeted action, and as Governor I will work every day to end our homelessness crisis. We also need to do everything we can to help people avoid becoming homeless in the first place. As Governor, I will bring our federal partners to the table. We need to make the federal housing choice voucher program available to everyone who is eligible. Currently, due to federal underinvestment, only one in four households who are eligible for a voucher receive one. I also support creating a statewide, long-term rent assistance program to help very low-income Oregonians stay housed. We also need more emergency rent assistance for families who could otherwise afford their rent but have a short-term emergency that puts them at risk of homelessness. Like food, housing is a basic human need. Every family who needs food assistance can sign up to get it, and families should be able to do the same thing to keep a roof over their heads.
Should people camping illegally face citations or criminal charges?
I believe it’s appropriate and necessary for local governments to be able to restrict camping in specific public places for health and safety reasons and for supporting managed shelter areas. As for the determination of what is “illegal,” the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Martin v. Boise ruled it was unconstitutional for local governments to criminalize homelessness in the absence of adequate alternatives, thereby prohibiting cities from criminalizing the status of homelessness itself by punishing individuals for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go. But we can’t stand still because of that ruling. It is the duty of state and local governments to develop adequate transitional shelter, increase the supply of affordable housing, prevent evictions and foreclosures, and do the direct outreach needed to help people connect with services and move off the streets.
How would you address homelessness that is affecting areas outside of the Portland metro region?
Our housing challenges affect all parts of the state. I would listen to local leaders and community members around the state about what they need to address the housing crisis in their community. In addition to the solutions outlined above, rural communities will likely need additional resources to implement solutions. Therefore, as Governor, I would direct the state’s housing agency to help by providing targeted assistance to support the siting, operations, and staffing of new shelters in smaller or rural communities. Helping people experiencing homelessness stay in their communities (instead of moving to more urban areas) helps them maintain their social networks of support and can aid in a faster return to stability. Additionally, it will be critical to partner with the state’s largest employers to create a housing and transportation employment plan which will be especially impactful outside the Portland-metro area. I will bring urgency to this issue and work with everyone to get this done. I am the only candidate in this race with the vision, values, and proven track record of fighting to end Oregon’s homelessness crisis.
You have said that man-made climate change is real, and should be a concern. The largest segment of greenhouse gas emissions – nationally and in Oregon – come from transportation. Do you support widening highways as a strategy to ease congestion? What specific steps will you take as governor to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles?
When investing in transportation infrastructure, we should be ensuring our roads and bridges are safe. We should also be adding transit options and improving bike and pedestrian access. I don’t think this is an “either/or” conversation. I believe we can have safe roads that aren’t clogged with traffic all day long and smart strategies to reduce pollution from cars and trucks. As House Speaker, I fought to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from Oregon’s transportation sector by initiating the Clean Fuels Program, which is now one of Oregon’s most successful policies for addressing the state’s role in climate change.
In 2015, I overcame opposition from Republicans, big oil lobbyists, and Betsy Johnson to start this program, and now it has successfully reduced almost 6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and displaced over one billion gallons of fossil fuels. And, in the 2017 transportation package, I fought for a new program to help Oregonians buy zero-emission vehicles and the first statewide fund to support local transit. As Governor, I will protect the Clean Fuels Program from the perennial attacks launched by the fossil fuel industry. I will also work with our federal partners to maximize the progress Oregon can make from the clean energy investments in the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, such as building out electric vehicle charging stations along highways and investing in cleaner buses and trucks.
Gov. Kate Brown signed Executive Order 20-04 in 2020, instituting declining caps on greenhouse gas emissions from some sources. Do you plan to rescind that order? If so, please describe any policy you would seek to replace it with. If not, how would you build on Brown’s order?
No, I will not rescind that order or walk back our commitments to reduce air pollution. The executive order was only necessary because Christine Drazan led her fellow Republicans to walk off the job and derail an entire legislative session instead of negotiating in good faith to address the climate crisis. Both my conservative opponents have received major campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and have spent years siding with big polluters. Climate change impacts like wildfires and extreme weather are already a major threat to our way of life and have deadly consequences, like last year’s extreme heat that killed nearly 100 people. That’s why I am committed to transitioning to a clean energy economy, one that provides clean renewable energy, grows jobs, and helps fight the effects of climate change.
Would you support any restrictions to accessing abortions? (For example, limits on abortions later in a pregnancy.)
The decision to have an abortion is a personal health care decision and should not be infringed upon by government.
Would you support a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to access an abortion in the state constitution?
Yes, I would support a constitutional amendment to protect abortion access and every person’s fundamental human right to have agency over their bodies and lives.
Right now, abortion is legal and remains protected in Oregon. I made sure of that by passing the nation’s strongest abortion access law, the Reproductive Health Equity Act. But, who our next governor is will be critical. Governors are the last line of defense against abortion bans and sneaky attempts by anti-abortion politicians to chip away at access. As for my opponents, former Representative Christine Drazan proudly states that she is anti-choice and has earned the endorsement of the anti-abortion group Oregon Right to Life. And former State Senator Betsy Johnson promoted Bridget Barton, an anti-choice, right wing extremist, to help run her campaign. Barton even put out a video saying that Betsy Johnson would be “virtually identical” to Drazan when it comes to reproductive rights. As your Governor, I will always stand up to defend reproductive rights in Oregon. That’s a promise.
Why has the right to access an abortion been an issue that is important to you?
This is about personal autonomy and a right to privacy. It’s about women having power over their own lives to decide if, and when, to start or grow a family. There is nothing just in forcing women to give birth against their wishes.
If elected governor, would you veto any legislation that attempted to restrict abortion access?
Yes. I have always been a champion for reproductive freedom, which is why I led the way to pass the nation’s strongest abortion access law. Oregon’s leading reproductive rights organizations, including Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon and Pro-Choice Oregon, have endorsed me because they know that they can trust me and me alone to always stand up and fight for reproductive freedom.
Do you support using Oregon taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions for people who live outside of Oregon?
Yes. I believe strongly in providing access to health care, and rights mean nothing if you cannot access them. Right now, half of U.S. women are at risk of losing access to reproductive health care. Many already have due to trigger bans that went into effect right after Roe was overturned. This is about freedom and justice. Oregon has long been a leader when it comes to reproductive rights, and as Governor, I will keep it that way.
What would your response be if, while serving as governor, the federal government enacted a federal abortion ban?
From what anti-choice extremists in Oregon and around the country are saying, a federal ban is what they are setting their sights on next. I will not be idle in this fight. I will proactively support the work already started to defend this fundamental right for Oregonians no matter what happens on the federal level. If the federal government enacts a ban on abortion, I will use every tool available to me to fight back. Here’s my promise to Oregonians: If the federal government ever tries to strip away your right to reproductive freedom, I will be the first person in the ring fighting back.
What is your position on gender-affirming care?
Gender-affirming care is health care, period. Everyone should be able to access the health care they need to lead healthy and authentic lives.
Would you support a constitutional amendment to protect the right to same-sex marriage in Oregon?
I would veto any legislation that undermines marriage equality in Oregon. And I would support a constitutional amendment to defend the existing right of same-sex couples to marry. This is obviously personal for me. I will defend my marriage. Justice Thomas’ opinion in the Dobbs case has set off alarm bells for many people. Everything is on the line now – access to birth control and contraception, marriage equality, gender affirming care, and more. As your Governor, I will always be ready to stand up for what I believe and fight back against injustice.
Do you believe that Measure 110 needs to be repealed?
No. Oregonians overwhelmingly voted to pass Measure 110 because they know we need a health-based approach that provides treatment to people dealing with addiction. When someone is ready to go into treatment and recovery, we need to ensure there is treatment ready and waiting for them. Unfortunately, the state has failed to deliver the promised treatment programs fast enough. In response, my opponents want to go back to our failed approach of just throwing people struggling with addiction in jail. I want to fix the problems and actually deliver on what voters demanded – that’s why I worked to fast-track $20 million when I was Speaker, and about 16,000 Oregonians were able to access treatment due to these new funds. As Governor, I will hold the Oregon Health Authority accountable and make sure Oregonians see the transformational change we need.
If so, would you commit to attempting to do so via a vote of the people? How would you help expand access to treatment and other services absent the funding set out in the measure? If not, do you believe the Measure is working as intended? What steps will you take to more quickly ensure that the intentions of voters are being met regarding referrals/access to treatment?
No, it’s not working as intended, in large part because the Oregon Health Authority failed to distribute the funds quickly to get more local treatment programs up and running. Let me be really clear, this would not be acceptable in a Kotek administration. I won’t tolerate bureaucracy standing in the way of Oregonians getting the help they need, especially when lives are on the line. As Governor, I will hold the Oregon Health Authority accountable for managing these critical resources and if that means replacing the current leadership at the agency with a leader who can get the job done, so be it. Additionally, I support strengthening the referral pathway for connecting people with treatment.
Do you think Oregon’s gun laws are too strict, too loose, or just right? What, if any, changes would you suggest?
There is more work to do. It shouldn’t be dangerous to shop or work at your local grocery store. The August 28 shooting at the Safeway in Bend was another painful reminder that we are facing a gun violence crisis. Enough is enough. We need to do more to keep guns away from individuals who want to do harm to themselves or others, we shouldn’t allow a teenager to buy military-style weapons, and we need to close loopholes that allow people to purchase a gun without a completed background check. As Governor, I will push to invest in locally-driven, evidence-based violence prevention programs. I am committed to increasing the age to purchase assault rifles from 18 to 21, requiring safety training for people who purchase firearms, and limiting the sale of military-style high-capacity magazines. I will collaborate with our Attorney General and state law enforcement to put an end to ghost guns and reduce the number of illegal firearms on our streets.
We also need to make sure the laws on the books are working. For example, we need to make sure more Oregonians know about our red flag law, which I helped pass in 2017 because it gives concerned family members and law enforcement a tool to keep guns out of the hands of people experiencing a mental health crisis who are a danger to themselves or others. Senator Johnson voted against this life-saving law. Second, research shows that safe gun storage practices protect children and adults by preventing accidental shootings and gun suicides. We need to make sure that the public is aware of Oregon’s safe storage requirements, and I will work with community leaders to build awareness of the importance of secure firearm storage. Both Senator Johnson and Representative Drazan voted no on Oregon’s safe storage law. Third, we need to keep up the work started by the Student Success Act to invest in mental health services in our public schools and help more kids before they are in crisis and turn to violence. Both Senator Johnson and Representative Drazan oppose the Student Success Act. Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Giffords PAC have endorsed me in the race for Governor because leaders in the effort to reduce gun violence know I am the only candidate they can trust to stand up to the gun lobby and keep our communities safe.
Would you support a law similar to what California just passed allowing individual gun violence survivors to sue manufacturers?
Yes. Right now, gun manufacturers have broad immunity, allowing them to skirt responsibility even in the most heinous cases where reasonable action could very well have saved lives.
Have you or do you plan to endorse Measure 114, which would ban high-capacity magazines and require a completed background check and safety course to purchase a gun?
Yes, I endorsed Measure 114 in July. Gun violence is preventable, but only if our leaders have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and fight for common-sense gun safety policies. I am the only candidate for governor who will tackle the crisis of gun violence. Both Betsy Johnson and Christine Drazan have voting records that earned them “A” ratings from the NRA, and Oregonians cannot trust them to keep our communities safe.
Oregon’s public defense system has been in crisis for much of the last year, leaving people without their constitutional right to an attorney. What specific policies would you employ to address the problem? Are there solutions you would not support (Such as more funding? Making trial level public defender state employees? Etc.)
Access to high-quality public defense is a cornerstone of making sure our court system is fair and just for everyone. Oregon’s public defense system has been in crisis for far too long. As Governor, I will support the work of the three-branch workgroup that has brought together the Governor’s Office, legislative leaders, and the judicial branch to find solutions to this constitutional emergency.
During your career as a lawmaker, what specific steps have you taken, or can you point to, that would’ve prevented the public defense system from breaking down as it has now?
I consistently supported the budget requests from the Office of Public Defense Services during my tenure in the House. In 2018, I made sure the legislature funded a study conducted by the national Sixth Amendment Center, which ultimately revealed significant structural problems in the state’s public defense system. In 2019, I pushed to pass a bill that would have set up the necessary process to have recommendations for the 2021 session (HB 3145). Both Representative Drazan and Senator Johnson opposed this approach and did nothing to make progress on this issue.
If elected governor, would you continue or repeal the current moratorium on the death penalty? Why?
Oregon has not followed through on the death penalty in over 25 years, and as Governor, I would continue the current moratorium. I am personally opposed to the death penalty because of my religious beliefs.
Voters in Multnomah County approved a universal preschool measure during the pandemic. Do you feel that the private-public partnership model they plan to use could be a fit for families statewide? As governor, would you support legislation to expand free preschool access in the state?
I am a strong supporter of making sure every Oregon child can have access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education. That’s why I made sure the Student Success Act included expanded investments in early childhood programs so more children will be ready for school when they enter kindergarten. Oregon’s path to achieving this big goal will require significant public-private partnership. As Governor, my initial priorities will be on meeting the growing need for suitable physical space for safe child care, expanding our child care workforce by providing capacity-building grants to communities, and expanding the coverage of Oregon’s Employment Related Daycare Program (ERDC) to meet the needs of more families.
Oregon voters will decide whether the state constitution should guarantee “cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care” as a fundamental right. If voters do pass the measure, what would you do to implement it - and how would you pay for that?
Putting the Hope Amendment before Oregon voters is about affirming, once and for all, our commitment to health care as a fundamental right for everyone. Oregon has made significant progress in recent years to increase access to quality, affordable health care, but barriers to care still exist and what we have must be protected, especially with perennial attacks from Congressional Republicans who want to scale back Obamacare or Medicaid in the states. If voters approve this measure, it will send a clear message that Oregonians want their state leaders to prioritize access to health care, and that’s what I will do.
What’s the most important thing Oregon should do to mitigate the ongoing harm caused by COVID-19?
As Governor, I will be clear and transparent in communicating to Oregonians about the ongoing effect of COVID-19 in our lives and what the experts say we should be doing. I will work to ensure broad access to updated vaccines, make testing as easy as possible, and continue to make sure Oregonians have access to high quality and affordable health care. Oregon lags other states when it comes to the percentage of kids who start kindergarten with all their childhood vaccinations, making Portland a known potential hotspot for measles outbreaks.
Do you support continuing to allow broad philosophical exemptions to childhood vaccination, or narrowing the grounds for exemption?
I personally support narrowing the state’s current exemptions to vaccination requirements. As Governor, my priority in this area will be on increasing awareness and public education about the importance of childhood vaccinations and making sure it is easy for parents to vaccinate their children.
Do you support making COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for public school attendance? For what ages?
As Governor, I will follow the science and listen to the experts when making decisions about public health. At this time I do not believe the state should update vaccination requirements for schools.
What role should the state play in moderating the effects of inflation on working class Oregonians? What steps would you take that aren’t being taken now?
I have spent the past 20 years fighting to make things better for Oregonians who struggle to make ends meet – first at Oregon Food Bank and most recently as Speaker of the House, where I pushed to raise the minimum wage and make sure workers have paid sick days and paid family leave. As Governor, Oregonians can count on me to keep fighting to make housing, health care and child care more affordable, while also supporting the workforce development opportunities that employers and our economy need to thrive:
Affordable housing: I will work with the private sector to finance projects that are affordable to middle-class workers, increase the construction workforce, and streamline permitting to help developers build more housing faster.
Health care costs: I will partner with Senator Wyden and others to make sure life-saving prescription drugs like insulin are protected from price-gouging and affordable to all Oregonians who need them. A
Affordable child care: I will continue to fight for investments in Oregon’s child care system to make it more affordable and build more capacity to serve working parents. Job training: I will support direct and ongoing funding for workforce development and partner with community colleges and registered apprenticeship programs to provide pathways to new skills and new careers.
Should Oregon design a safety net benefit for people with long COVID who are limited in their ability to work?
How would you support the continued growth of the semiconductor industry in Oregon? What concrete steps would you take?
As Governor, I look forward to working with the legislature to build on the ongoing work of the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force. I am committed to supporting the growth of the semiconductor industry in Oregon. Additionally, many industries, including advanced manufacturing, have identified a need for “upskilling” to keep pace with changes in technology. As Governor, I will support direct and ongoing funding for workforce development and partner with community colleges and registered apprenticeship programs to provide pathways to new skills and new careers.
A recent state audit found there should be more oversight and accountability on school spending; how would you as governor make sure schools were spending funds wisely?
I want to thank Secretary of State Fagan for issuing the systemic risk report on Oregon’s K-12 system, specifically the recommendations about oversight on the Student Success Act dollars. Across all state agencies, we need more proactive, system-wide analyses like this one to improve what we’re doing and head off problems before they occur. The report is clear: there are five key risks that must be addressed to achieve the promises of the Student Success Act. As Governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, I will work with the State Board of Education and direct the Oregon Department of Education to hold school districts accountable to the act’s requirements with more transparent data about student outcomes, stronger monitoring, and additional support for struggling districts. I will also go further.
The Student Success Act is only a portion of the state’s spending on public education. As Governor, I will push to apply the same vision and accountability to the State School Fund overall. Part of the reason our schools are not living up to their potential is that Oregon has not successfully sustained past improvement efforts. Both Christine Drazan and Betsy Johnson oppose the Student Success Act. We can’t pull the rug out from under our students, parents, and educators again. We need to keep demanding accountability for taxpayers’ investments in a public education system that ensures every child in Oregon thrives at school and into adulthood.
Do you have a graduation rate goal? What do you plan to do as Governor to get there? What do you think should be required for an Oregon high school diploma?
As Governor, I will work to improve Oregon’s high school graduation rates to 90% for all student groups by 2027. To meet this goal I will hold school districts accountable to deliver on the promises of the Student Success Act, which is delivering $1 billion more per year so school districts can fully fund career and technical education, improve graduation rates, expand mental health support for students, and more. I will demand transparent data about student outcomes, stronger monitoring, and additional support for struggling districts to ensure they are making progress. We need to increase our graduation rates without lowering our standards. I have always supported maintaining rigorous standards for reading, writing, and math. But we don’t need to keep adding on more and more standardized testing beyond what is necessary to monitor student progress. We need to let teachers teach – and our students will benefit from more instructional time.
Should there be more state funding for public higher education? If so, specifically what should that money go toward? If not, what should be cut or how should public universities and colleges continue to deal with rising costs?
I was able to finish college at the University of Oregon with a Pell grant and work study assistance, and it changed the course of my life. By not being burdened by college debt, I had the freedom to follow my dreams. I am pleased the federal government has finally stepped up and now millions of federal student loan borrowers will soon see up to $20,000 of their student debt cleared. We still need to do more to make college affordable. As House Speaker, I made sure that if our universities want to increase tuition by more than 5 percent, they have to get approval from the Board of Higher Education. I also supported increasing student financial assistance through the Oregon Opportunity Grant and the Oregon Promise. As Governor, I will focus on stabilizing and expanding support for our community colleges, increasing student financial assistance through the Oregon Opportunity Grant and Oregon Promise, and maintaining support for targeted investments like the Oregon Tribal Student Grant, which covers tuition and other college costs for enrolled members of Oregon tribes.
What is the current role of higher education in Oregon? Should our colleges and universities be changing to build the workforce? Why and how?
Right now, we are facing an intense workforce shortage in Oregon, with countless industries around our state are struggling to fill open positions. And to be frank, businesses and industries won’t put Oregon on the top of their list if they aren’t confident we can meet their workforce needs. Our colleges and universities can and should be leading the way to ensure that we are training and preparing the next generation of workers to meet the needs of our employers and grow our economy.
Much of Oregon is experiencing a 1,200-year drought that is exacerbating conflicts over water rights and resources. How would you address the state’s problems with water scarcity? Would you support any new restrictions on water rights or limitations on water allocation for large developments such as luxury resorts or data centers?
Oregon is seeing profound impacts from record drought and heat throughout the state. We know that climate change is causing longer and more frequent drought periods. We must address the immediate impacts on our communities and take action to prevent climate change from worsening. As House Speaker, I created a House Water Committee to focus on the state’s needs in this area. Most recently, I pushed for a special session in December 2021, which enabled the legislature to pass a major drought relief package, including $40 million for an agricultural forgivable disaster loan program to bridge the gaps while producers wait for federal aid. For the Klamath Basin in particular, the package set aside $12 million for domestic well assistance, livestock wells, drought resiliency, and irrigation district assistance, and it also invested $9.7 million toward drought relief on Klamath Tribal lands. As Governor, I will ensure that the state leads with a collaborative approach to address Oregon’s critical and complex water issues. Oregon needs more data to understand the amount of water available in our rivers, streams, and aquifers.
Residents, conservationists and farmers across rural Oregon have been reporting falling groundwater levels — a major threat to the future of these areas. In your role overseeing the Oregon Water Resources Department, what would you do to ensure everyone continues to have access to groundwater for generations to come?
We need to change state policy to stop issuing water rights until we know that there is enough water to satisfy those rights. That will require better data about groundwater and surface water resources, thoughtful place-based planning processes, and ongoing leadership from legislators, local partners, and state agencies. The fact is that climate change will only worsen the devastation that farmers, wildlife, and rural economies are already experiencing from years of historic droughts and wildfires. As Governor, I will ensure that the state continues leading with a collaborative approach to address Oregon’s critical and complex water issues.
The state has known that nitrates have been polluting groundwater in the Lower Umatilla Basin for 30 years, and recent testing shows that the water is unsafe to drink for many residents. What would you do to address nitrate pollution in the Lower Umatilla Basin and across the state?
This situation is completely unacceptable. Every Oregonian should have access to clean, safe drinking water. I applaud the local leaders who stepped up to get water filters out to residents and worked to educate local residents quickly. As Governor, I will make sure the state agencies involved, especially the Department of Environmental Quality, are doing their job and are strong partners on the ground. I will push the polluters to fix the problem and reduce the amount of nitrogen-rich wastewater they are putting on the land. And I will push everyone involved – the port, local government and our federal delegation – to come together, with the state as the lead convener, to find long-term solutions to address this pollution.