OPB asked the three leading candidates for governor to explain their stances on a wide range of challenges facing Oregon. Here are Republican Christine Drazan’s unedited responses.
Housing and homelessness
What is your plan to increase housing affordability?
If we are serious about improving housing affordability, we must protect existing programs — like the mortgage interest deduction and first-time home buyer program — while holding down property taxes that already make up a significant portion of Oregonians’ monthly mortgage bills. We must also recognize that the regulatory environment on buildings directly impacts costs, and we need to stop mandating homes that, by their own nature, will be expensive due to the regulations in place on them. If we want affordable housing, we can’t continue with business as usual when it comes to increased restrictions and regulations that drive up costs.
Should the state’s land-use laws be changed? If so, how? If not, why?
Oregon’s land use system truly is one of a kind. On the one hand, it has helped maintain so much of what we love about our state — suburban communities that transition beautifully into farmland, a lack of the kind of urban sprawl we see in other states across the U.S., and neighborhoods that have maintained their character through generations. On the other hand, it is extraordinarily complex, often moves at a glacial pace, and can be very expensive to navigate. These issues have come into particular focus as the number of available housing units continues to lag behind what is needed. The Land Conservation and Development Commission must be nimble, more accessible for everyday Oregonians, and should not hold future development hostage in bureaucratic purgatory. Our state can have both well-planned communities and communities that are growing at the pace needed to support a full range of housing options.
Should there be a quicker, less burdensome way to expand the urban growth boundaries? If not, why? If yes, how would you accomplish that?
Our state’s land use system is turning 50 years old, and it is starting to show its age. As the needs in local communities have changed — particularly as it relates to housing supply — our laws and regulations must be updated accordingly. With regards to the urban growth model, we need a government that is responsive and helpful to the people of this state, not bogged down by bureaucracy and political agenda. The UGB plays an important role in protecting farmland — and it’s vital that we continue to affirm this protection — but we must also look for opportunities to accelerate development where appropriate. I’m committed to bringing people together and ensuring the voices of all impacted stakeholders are involved as we consider adjustments to our land use system and urban growth boundaries.
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?
Race should play no role in whether an individual has an opportunity to access housing. Period. My administration will have a zero-tolerance policy for racism of any kind and will look to make housing more affordable and accessible for all Oregonians. We can do that by continuing to support key affordability measures like the mortgage interest deduction and first-time home buyer program — both of which are essential to helping families purchase a home — while continuing to confront Oregon’s painful history of racial injustice in housing at every opportunity.
Should Oregon be subsidizing more housing? If so, where and what type of housing? And where would the money come from?
Oregon is spending more on housing than ever before, with the state’s investment in housing tripling since 2017. The results have been underwhelming. I’m not supportive of a government takeover of private housing. I believe in incentives to accomplish public policy goals and I am supportive of private entities providing resources to accomplish housing goals. I have supported some investments in housing, including $500,000 allocated by the State Homelessness Response Coordination Infrastructure, much of which was aimed around bolstering the Built for Zero homelessness model, which I support.
What do you believe are the specific causes of Oregon’s homelessness crisis?
My opponents will say a lack of affordable housing is the primary driver, and while our housing costs are certainly a factor, a housing-first response is a failed approach that glosses over the more inconvenient truths about the crisis in our streets. The reality is, the state has failed to support Oregonians suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues. In many cases, politicians have actually made things worse. Decriminalizing hard drugs like heroin and methamphetamine has only exacerbated addiction rates. At the same time, promised recovery supports that were included in Measure 110 have been mired in bureaucratic incompetence for months. Tina Kotek is personally responsible for pushing through a policy that effectively legalized tent camping in Oregon. Instead of enabling homelessness, we must balance our approach with a mindset of both compassion and accountability.
What is a metric you will use to gauge your administration’s success on homelessness?
One of the biggest challenges we have in responding to our homeless crisis is understanding exactly how many people are living on our streets at any given time. The current point in time count is limited and difficult to monitor for progress in real-time. The metric has to be an end to encampments, and fewer people living under tattered tarps surrounded by trash along streets and sidewalks. The Built for Zero model, in use in jurisdictions across the metro area, includes a goal of helping communities reach a “functional zero” homeless population, where homelessness is rare and temporary. The Built for Zero model uses data to address homelessness across service providers and between jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis rather than with a blanket approach.
What is a reasonable timetable for meeting that metric?
Addressing homelessness will need to continue to be a priority even as we make progress and even after we reach functional zero. But the sooner we are willing to embrace a data-driven approach that recognizes the complexity of this challenge and relies on both accountability and compassion, the sooner the experience of homelessness will be rare and temporary, not permanent and chronic.
What type of homeless shelter is the most effective? Low barrier? Or those that require something from residents? Where should they be located?
In every policy decision related to homelessness, we must address the crisis with both compassion and accountability. The shelters that are peer-run, with agreements among residents for expectations, shared responsibilities, and which operate with or without a nominal payment for rent, offer the best opportunity for stability and safety for those who are ready to transition from shelters to subsidized housing and gainful employment. We must balance the need to get people off the street and into a safe place to sleep with the need to address issues related to substance abuse and other untreated issues. Low-barrier shelters are already an option, but they cannot be the default option. Long-term progress must address substance use and substance use disorder. Shelter options that prohibit drug use support those who have chosen to seek treatment and pursue long-term recovery, as well as those who are experiencing homelessness but not facing the challenges of addiction. To solve homelessness in the long term we have to solve our addiction crisis as a state, which means we need to make the best option the one that presents opportunities to get into treatment and recovery. Harm reduction programs enable the proliferation of drugs on our streets. Shelter options that provide case management, as well as mental and behavioral health services with a focus on addiction treatment and long-term recovery, are critical.
Was Project Turnkey a good idea? Should it be expanded?
Project Turnkey is a good fit in the communities that welcome it, but the long-term obligation to maintain and run the facilities cannot fall to the state. I do not support the expansion of the program at this time. The program in my region was being used to move homeless individuals out of the metro area, and into a hotel in a remote rural area with no social services and extremely limited transportation options. The project as proposed failed to earn the support of my local community.
How would you suggest helping people move beyond homeless shelters and into more permanent housing?
We have to help Oregonians get sober and stay sober. The reality is that not everyone on the street is ready to make this commitment to their own future. The movement from a shelter into permanent housing depends on mental health, behavioral health and workforce training. We must make a commitment to help people recover from the experience of living on the streets, whether that is addiction recovery or mental health supports, it will take time to transition back to wellness for many who have experienced long-term homelessness. Supportive housing may be the next step for some and for others entering into training for work and stable employment may be possible, but for those committed to getting back on their feet and into permanent housing, we will work with them to support their goal of achieving self-sufficiency.
Should people camping illegally face citations or criminal charges?
HB 3115, authored by Tina Kotek, made it overly complicated for local governments to enforce local laws and ordinances surrounding tent camping and loitering. The bill was a mistake and has only made things worse. Cities and counties must have the ability to maintain community standards to protect the health of those who are homeless as well as the surrounding neighborhoods impacted by the drugs and trash that accompany encampments. The issue is not whether or not someone faces criminal charges or a citation as much as it is whether or not the local jurisdiction has the authority to take actions necessary to ensure public health and community safety is maintained. Just as we offer compassion and support services to our homeless neighbors, we also have a responsibility to provide personal accountability and uphold the rule of law.
How would you address homelessness that is affecting areas outside of the Portland metro region?
Local governments need to be given back local control. They also need help and state-level support in addressing the crisis on their streets, no matter where they are located. Addiction and mental health are complex drivers of this problem. Those challenges exist statewide in downtown Portland, suburban communities and rural Oregon. In many ways, those living in rural Oregon have a tougher time accessing the support they need to overcome these challenges because services are simply not available in their community. I will support local communities in addressing homelessness in a way that is responsive to their local resources, continuing to recognize the need for shelter and supportive housing options, while also investing in addiction and mental health support statewide.
What are your thoughts on Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to consider how to reduce climate pollution when creating new housing?
Governor Brown’s casual use of executive orders and mandates to enforce her political agenda is one of the biggest reasons Oregonians have lost trust her in administration. Her executive order on climate is going to continue to drive up costs across our entire economy — including as it relates to housing. It makes little sense to me, given the affordability crisis we are currently experiencing, to stack additional costs onto the housing market, particularly in the name of a program that will lead to little to no tangible environmental benefits.
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?
The population thresholds established as part of this legislation were too low and should be updated. Instead of targeting the provisions of this law to the Portland metro area, where local leaders have expressed an interest in pursuing more housing density, the final bill roped in a number of rural communities where the needs and nuances of the local market are often far different. We need to shift away from a mindset that it is the government’s role to micromanage and intervene so extensively in the housing market. Specifically, as it relates to this policy, we must also recognize that increased density does not always equate to more affordable units. For example, tearing out a manufactured housing park to build high-rise condos could easily lead to the displacement of lower-income families as wealthier individuals move in.
Who would you appoint to lead the head of the Department of Land Conservation and Development?
My administration will look to appoint individuals who have subject matter expertise and who share my vision for how state agencies should be run. We will look to hire the best and brightest committed to my vision for Oregon. That means re-establishing a culture of customer service, of eliminating red tape — not creating it — and operating with the transparency and accountability that should be expected of state agencies.
Have you ever been a landlord? If so, could you share details of what type of property you owned or own?
Which housing policy have you either sponsored or voted on that has been the most meaningful and why?
I’ve supported an approach that abandons the “one-size-fits-all” standard of governing that we’ve seen for too long in housing and other issues around this state. Rural areas like Ontario in the eastern part of our state are struggling to build out their housing markets because they have to work under the same rules and handicaps that Portland has. This makes it hard to construct effective, new housing, especially considering the competition just across the river in Idaho. We need more local control, less regulation, and greater flexibility to allow different communities to succeed with the approaches that work best for them.
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 — comes 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?
First, it’s important to start by acknowledging that Oregon is already among the greenest states in the country, due in large part to our ability to access renewable hydropower and other clean power sources. With respect to transportation, consumers should have the option to purchase an electric vehicle, it shouldn’t be a requirement and our current energy grid cannot support a prohibition on gas or diesel-powered vehicles. I support widening our highways by building more lanes. I believe we can both reduce traffic times and reduce emissions from idling engines. But this is an incomplete solution unless we address jobs. We need to ensure that people can access work within a reasonable distance from the home that they can afford. As long as we place housing and jobs at opposite ends of the metro area, we will face congestion challenges, we must take a more holistic approach and provide economic opportunity to all communities.
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?
I would tear up Governor Brown’s cap-and-trade executive order on Day One. It is an extraordinary abuse of power by the executive branch that will, in the end, provide little in the way of environmental benefits while harming businesses, consumers, and our overall state economy.
Would you have vetoed the 2017 Oregon law codifying the right to an abortion?
I would have vetoed legislation that would put Oregon further outside the mainstream on abortion policies, including taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion on demand up until the moment of birth.
If elected governor, would you veto budgets that allocated money to organizations that advocate for abortion access?
My concern is with how the money is used, not with the organizations themselves. I am committed to examining every budget that reaches my desk to ensure it is being used to serve Oregonians and not simply advancing a political agenda.
Would you have a litmus test for judges, ensuring they favor abortion restrictions?
I do not believe in any litmus test other than whether a potential judge is committed to upholding both the U.S. and Oregon Constitutions.
If elected governor, would you pursue legal or other action against people from other states who come to Oregon for an abortion?
No. As governor, I would follow existing law.
Would you support legislation banning abortion in Oregon? If so, any details or exceptions would be helpful.
I will not comment on legislation that has not reached my desk nor even been drafted yet, but I support common-sense regulations on abortion, including protecting life in the third trimester.
What does a post-Roe v. Wade Oregon look like under a Drazan governorship?
Roe is codified into Oregon law. Regardless of my personal opinions on abortion, as governor, I will follow the law. My administration will be focused on the issues Oregonians care most about: fixing our schools, addressing the crisis in the streets, and making our state a more affordable place to live and raise a family.
Are you opposed to same-sex marriage?
As governor, if future U.S. Supreme Court rulings reverse the legalization of gay marriage nationally, would you support legislation locally to do the same?
What is your position on gender-affirming care?
Patients should have to access health care services that address their individual needs.
Do you believe that Measure 110 (the 2020 ballot measure decriminalizing low-level drug possession) needs to be repealed?
Yes. Measure 110 is a failed policy. It has made our addiction crisis worse, not better.
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?
Yes. I have previously stated that because the voters of Oregon were the ones who gave this law its original approval, they must be the ones to weigh in again regarding repeal. Given the disastrous rollout and false promises associated with it, I believe that Oregonians will support repeal. We have enough money in our current state budget to build on addiction and recovery services without having to also accept the decriminalization of hard drugs.
Do you think Oregon’s gun laws are too strict, too loose, or just right? What, if any, changes would you suggest?
Oregon already has among the strictest gun laws in the nation, we must fully enforce existing laws to ensure that guns are not in the hands of criminals and the public is protected.
Would you support a law similar to what California just passed allowing individual gun violence survivors to sue manufacturers?
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?
I do not support Measure 114. Oregon already has among the strictest gun laws in the nation, including universal background checks and red flag laws.
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 defenders state employees? Etc.)
We are a nation of laws and people are innocent until proven guilty. We must have a strong public defense to ensure our judicial system can administer justice fairly. The current system is not working. I support ensuring necessary funding so that the accused has access to a public defender. This issue has been allowed to continue because of a lack of leadership. I will work with the legal community and stakeholders to identify a sustainable and constitutionally sound approach moving forward.
During your career as a lawmaker, what specific steps have you taken, or can you point to, that would have prevented the public defense system from breaking down as it has now?
When I arrived in the state legislature the public defender system was in freefall. My opponents are responsible for this, with Betsy Johnson running the appropriations committee and Tina Kotek presiding as Speaker. I voted for every opportunity to increase funding for public defenders to ensure we have a system that fulfills its obligation.
If elected governor, would you continue or repeal the current moratorium on the death penalty? Why?
I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but the death penalty was put in place by Oregon voters. I will follow the law by reviewing cases on a case-by-case basis, which is my duty as governor. Rather than setting aside the law I will act based on the facts and fulfill my duty within the confines of my conscience.
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?
No. During this time of extraordinary tax burden, the last thing we need to do is grow the government and expand it.
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?
This was a poorly written piece of legislation driven based on a political agenda, not what is best for public policy. During the legislative debate of this measure, Democrats said that this measure would be aspirational and that it wouldn’t break the state budget and it wasn’t done to short other priorities. I’m going to take them at their word. If implemented, this measure would cost the average family of four approximately $2,884 per year in additional taxes. That is not sustainable for Oregon families. I believe we can do a better job of connecting Oregonians with healthcare by improving the current system than we can by locking ourselves into a constitutional mandate.
What’s the most important thing Oregon should do to mitigate the ongoing harm caused by COVID-19?
I trust Oregonians to talk to their medical providers and respond to current conditions to determine the best approach for themselves and their families.
Oregon lags behind 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 support the existing law.
Do you support making COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for public school attendance? For what ages?
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?
Here in Oregon, the state budget has doubled in a decade, those costs have been felt by Oregon families and the state has a role in responding to the affordability crisis. The decisions made in Salem have a clear impact on family budgets across this state. Policies like the corporate activity tax — which Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson both supported — have increased prices. Other programs, like the low-carbon fuel standard, have resulted in higher gas prices. Government regulations make it harder and more expensive to do business in Oregon. I will veto new tax increases, put a moratorium on new regulations, and examine those already on the books to revise, roll back, and repeal when necessary.
Should Oregon design a safety net benefit for people with long COVID who are limited in their ability to work?
Oregon has a reliable and robust social safety net that supports people regardless of the specifics of their condition.
How would you support the continued growth of the semiconductor industry in Oregon? What concrete steps would you take?
Semiconductors are an important business to our state, and we need to do everything we can to ensure these businesses expand in our state. However, this industry is not unique in facing challenges that other businesses face. What has been proposed to support the semiconductor industry is a case study of what we should do for other businesses across this state. We need to reduce regulatory burdens and ensure that the state is a partner for economic growth for all of Oregon’s businesses.
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?
We have to improve our schools, but we will not get better schools without oversight and accountability. We are spending more money on public education than ever before, yet our graduation rates remain among the worst in the country. I will order an audit of the Department of Education and work with teachers and school boards to ensure that tax dollars are being spent in ways that actually benefit our kids. While we continue to spend more, we aren’t seeing results. We must ensure that every single dollar goes to students and strengthens learning outcomes to allow them to pursue their best possible future. Restoring graduation requirements and holding schools accountable is key for this.
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?
Our goal must be to serve all students and ensure that all students are best prepared for their future. We can’t give up on any kids. Here’s what I won’t do: allow the Department of Education to continue to pursue permanent rules that lower the requirements for achieving a diploma. Lowering standards cheapens the value of an Oregon education and sets our students up for failure in the real world. It’s the wrong approach. My goal will be to improve our graduation rate every year that I am in office. We can do that by better applying the record revenues we have allocated to our public education system, ensuring that teachers have the tools they need to be successful, and by ensuring that parents are invited and involved in their child’s education.
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 am a strong supporter of our community colleges; they are the lowest barrier of access for post-secondary education. With that role, they warrant support from the state. These institutions are uniquely tied to job opportunities in local communities. With regard to our university system, we cannot continue to accept ballooning university budgets and the tuition increases that accompany them. We need to take a hard look at the core mission of our universities and identify opportunities to cut costs without harming student learning. Universities have an obligation to do everything they can to control costs. Our higher system must be built to provide degrees that lead to work.
What is the current role of higher education in Oregon? Should our colleges and universities be changing to build the workforce? Why and how?
Students should have the freedom to pursue an education that fits with their goals and aspirations, but we clearly need to do a better job of guiding them to fields where their prospects of landing a stable, family-wage job are higher. Prioritizing and promoting trade schools and other career and technical education fields will be a priority for my administration. If our higher education system is not built to provide degrees that lead to work, it does not add any value.
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?
I support the maintenance of the principles of western water law. My administration will be focused on improving and modernizing our water infrastructure, including water storage during peak flows to support farmers, ranchers, and property owners in drier months. We must balance the interests of water users, but additional restrictions on water rights are not the answer.
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?
Access to groundwater is a serious issue and we should rely on science and stakeholder input. We need to look at the reasons for more groundwater use, including the reallocation of surface water away from traditional uses like agriculture. We need to pursue innovations in how we manage water, invest in large-scale storage, and continue to invest in innovation for the conservation of water.
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?
Our first priority must be access to safe drinking water. The solution to this problem will take collaboration from all stakeholders and the state has a role to ensure that commitments are maintained and that we have safe drinking water for generations to come.