Last month, current governor John Kitzhaber, and his opponent Chris Dudley faced off in a debate held at the KGW studios in Portland. The format of the debate was such that the candidates fielded questions from political analysts of the Oregonian, a live studio audience full of undecided voters, and questions which were sent in via email.
During the debate, the candidates sparred over a range of subjects, the most frequent of which were job creation, economic stimulus methods, capital gains taxes, and funding for schools and infrastructure.
Toward the beginning of the debate, the candidates were asked how each of them would propose to create jobs if they were elected. Chris Dudley remarked that he would not borrow more money to fund the creation of new jobs, as he suggested that “...the state credit card is maxed out...”, and that “…the private sector creates jobs, not the government.” Governor Kitzhaber replied by indicating that he has proposed to create jobs via the instatement of a large scale weatherization project, which would help to spur business in the private sector by creating jobs for local contractors and service providers, whom could then hire on more workers, and that this would also have the effect of saving energy in the long term.
The next issue addressed was that of capital gains taxes and other tax issues. Chris Dudley proposed that lowering the capital gains tax would bring more business into the state because our nearest neighbor Washington has a lower capital gains tax, which is more attractive for businesses. Kitzhaber argued that what we did not need was tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals, but that the state needed to keep it’s spending in check, and do so in such ways as to not underfund public programs and commons which promote the welfare of the citizenry.
At one point, the discussion turned to that of experience between the two candidates, and why they each thought they should be given the governorship. John Kitzhaber repeatedly pointed out that due to his current service, he would be able to hit the ground running, and be effective “…from day one”, and put his proposed ideas into place immediately. Whereas Chris Dudley pointed out that experience was less of an issue than that of current failed policies, and that what Oregon needs is “…new leadership.” To which Kitzhaber took issue, and reminded everyone in the audience that “…a new face does not necessarily mean new policies…” and that the other side’s policies were taken directly from failed Republican policies during the Bush administration. Dudley reinforced the idea that “the status quo isn’t working”, and that change was needed.
Neither candidate tripped much over their words, and both came off fairly astute and knowledgeable about the subjects which they were asked, but in a notable exchange, Dudley fumbled for an answer when he was asked “Which specific current land use policies would you disagree with, and why?” To which he replied gawkily “Boy, I can’t really think of any right off the top of my head, but that’s a good question, I’ll have to um--I’ll have to get back to you on that one.” Kitzhaber immediately responded with a derision of the proposed Gorge Casinos, and also lamented the fact that a particular stretch of the Woodburn area has become segregated with regard to the majority of jobs being on one side of I5, and the majority of housing being on the other, which creates extensive traffic issues in the area.
Later, in another exchange, the two were asked about their feelings about personal attacks in advertising for their own campaigns. Chris Dudley remarked that he thought that it was “unfortunate” that attack ads had become prevalent, and Kitzhaber noted that advertising represents an opportunity to point out differences in the campaigns, but also wished that the two sides were able to mellow the tone a bit, and focus on the issues. As a bookend to that notion, Kitzhaber invited Dudley to debate him at the upcoming City Club meeting (where Dudley has declined to debate him), and in turn, Dudley invited Kitzhaber to join him in any of four debates that he had scheduled in Medford, and elsewhere around the state. There was no response given, as time was up. The moderator signaled that the two camps should probably talk about those possibilities, and signed off.
In the end, both candidates seemed to hold their own, with no major gaffes or awkward moments between the media and the candidates, which is rare for this format. Each candidate seemed to easily regurgitate their respective talking points, and were able to articulate their views fairly well in a public setting.
Here is a link to the debate coverage: