The three candidates for Oregon governor are Democrat Tina Kotek (left), Betsy Johnson, running unaffiliated (center) and Republican Christine Drazan (right). (Campaign photos)
The three women running for governor of Oregon will debate each other before the November election. When, where and what about remains undetermined.
Debates about debates heated up over the past couple weeks, with Democrat Tina Kotek calling for a forum solely dedicated to gun violence and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson seeking televised debates in all areas of the state. Republican Christine Drazan is reviewing every proposal.
Kotek on Thursday slammed Johnson and Drazan for not responding to her call for a gun violence forum in the wake of a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school.
Kotek, the former speaker of the Oregon House, supported gun control laws including expanded background checks and preventing people convicted of domestic abuse from obtaining guns, while Johnson voted against those measures as a Democratic state senator. Drazan, who was the Republican House leader from 2019 to 2021, voted against legislation requiring safe gun storage and touts an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
“Right now, Oregonians are looking for leaders who will have the courage to stand up to the NRA and fight to reduce gun violence,” Kotek said in a statement. “Representative Drazan and Senator Johnson’s silence makes it clear that they would rather cater to the gun lobby than stand up for common-sense policies to prevent gun violence.”
Johnson’s communications director, Jennifer Sitton, said Johnson assumed Kotek’s call for a gun violence forum was a “political ploy” on Kotek’s part.
Drazan campaign manager Trey Rosser declined to say whether Drazan will participate in a forum about gun violence, but said in an emailed statement that Drazan looks forward to debates that will give her the opportunity to compare Kotek, Johnson and Gov. Kate Brown.
“Christine looks forward to comparing and contrasting her record and her vision for Oregon with the two career Democrats that are expected to be on the ballot this November,” Rosser said. “We will be reviewing all proposed debates with a commitment to ensuring they are fair and balanced and look forward to participating in as many as possible.”
Earlier in June, Johnson asked for debates in Bend, Coos Bay, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton and Portland along with a previously agreed-to debate hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
Kotek countered with a proposal for forums in Eugene, Salem, Portland, Medford and Hermiston, as well as a debate hosted by Oregon Public Broadcasting without a set location.
Both campaigns said they’re finalizing details over debates. Kotek communications director Katie Wertheimer said Kotek would consider participating in issue-specific forums proposed by other campaigns.
Disagreements over debates are nothing new. Challengers are usually more eager to debate than incumbents, as shown by the Democratic primary in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who defeated Rep. Kurt Schrader, called for several debates and Schrader only agreed to one on a local television station.
Nationally, presidential debates may look different in 2024 after the Republican National Committee voted this spring to leave the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has sponsored every debate since the ‘80s.
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