PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 4 leading Democratic candidates seeking to become the next Oregon governor met in a one-hour live debate at the KOIN studios Tuesday night. For the most part the candidates stuck to their previous statements and themes, although there was some disagreement between them as the debate continued.

Former House Speaker Tina Kotek and current Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read got into a back-and-forth about halfway through. When Kotek was asked a question about why the family medical leave she proposed 3 years ago didn’t go through, she said the pandemic disrupted everything when it erupted. But she said that as governor, she would make it happen.

Read took issue with that. He said Kotek can’t pick and choose the things she takes credit for but doesn’t take responsibility when things don’t go well.

That generated replies from the other candidates, Patrick Starnes and George Carrillo, who criticized both candidates. Starnes said Kotek didn’t come through on campaign finance reform.

“I passed campaign finance reform in the Oregon House in 2019,” Kotek said. “I can’t help that our Senate president couldn’t get it done.”

Aside from that, each candidate answered the questions, stayed in their time limits and respected each other’s positions.

A detailed breakout of the debate is below. It was moderated by Ken Boddie with questions from panelists Lisa Balick and Pamplin Media Group managing editor Dana Haynes along with viewer questions.

The candidates were selected based on criteria set forth by Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., KOIN 6’s parent company.

Live blog of the KOIN debate of Democratic candidates for governor

7:52 p.m.

The closing statements began with Tobias Read, who talked about the difference between legislative and executive branches and noted he’s been endorsed by former Gov. Barbara Roberts’

Kotek said “Oregonians want things better and they want things to work. If you hire me as your governor… I am a direct person who won’t make promises I can’t keep.”

Starnes thanked viewers for watching the debate and re-iterated his past experiences “that will allow me to go up against Betsy Johnson” when we go to all 36 counties.

“A true leader is someone who doesn’t take the credit,” Carillo said. “Our lawmakers have failed us and yet they want us” to keep electing them. A vote for him will “open up doors that have been closed in the past.”

7:49 p.m.

Kotek said she was “very aware” of the danger a subduction zone earthquake would have in the Portland area.

Starnes said he is the only candidate to propose using the Kicker money for an emergency fund for this type of disaster.

Carrillo said we need to begin “preparing.”

“When we bury our heads in the sand we are at greater risk,” Read said.

7:47 p.m.

The lightning round of questions began with Tina Kotek being asked how she is different from the others in the primary. “I’m a change-maker,” she said.

Starnes said he is leading by example by not taking corporate donations and limiting them to $1000.

“I represent the BIPOC community,” Carrillo said. “Trust me, there are plenty of people being left behind.”

Read noted he is the only person who has run for and won a statewide office.

7:45 p.m.

Asked how quickly he would find money to help county district attorneys — especially in Multnomah County — hire staff to prosecute crimes, Read said “as quickly as possible.”

7:42 p.m.

A view question asked each candidate what steps would be taken to protect public forests. Carrillo spoke in general terms. Read provided specifics about some “opportunities to grow our economy.” Kotek said how we manage the forests should be done to look at both economics and the environment. “The climate change cannot be ignored.” Starnes said he stood up for “old growth forests” and said scientists are now finding out the bigger the better.

7:40 p.m.

Starnes relied on his experience as a small business owner and as a school board member to say that he believed schools will dramatically change in the future.

7:35 p.m.

Asked about paid family medical leave that didn’t happen 3 years after it was proposed, Kotek said she knows “how important it is” for families to have time in the early years. She said the pandemic is the biggest reason this plan didn’t go through but said as governor she would make it happen.

Read took issue with what she said. He said Kotek can’t pick and choose the things she takes credit for but doesn’t take responsibility when things don’t go well.

Carrillo took issue with both responses from Kotek and Read. Then Starnes took issue with Kotek over campaign finance reform.

“I passed campaign finance reform in the Oregon House in 2019,” Kotek said. “I can’t help that our Senate president couldn’t get it done.”

7:29 p.m.

Another viewer question wanted to know how Tobias Read would get Democrats and Republicans to work together. He pointed to his previous efforts on projects with those across the aisle.

Kotek said her job as governor would be to “be governor for the entire state.”

“I’m a rural Democrat,” Starnes said. “I work elbow-to-elbow” with people who don’t share his beliefs. But he’s been able to get them to work together on a common agenda.

“I’ve had this relationship. I work in the community,” said Carrillo, who works for the Oregon Health Authority. “Community-based organizations are the backbone” of how things get done.

7:27 p.m.

“If I wanted to learn how to be a political actor I would have gone to drama school,” said Carrillo to a question about whether it would have been better for the first-time candidate to run for the state legislature. “Government is broken. I’m here to fix it.”

7:26 p.m.

Starnes said that within his first 100 days of office, he would work to eliminate big money donations from campaigns.

7:21 p.m.

“The answer to that is Yes,” said Kotek in response to a viewer question if she would sign legislation that would require divestment of Oregon’s fossil fuel holdings. “I would encourage our treasurer to do that.”

Starnes agreed. He also linked the fossil fuel industry to campaign donations for other candidates.

Carrillo said he understands “at this time we don’t have alternative fuel … We need to invest in other areas.”

Read said he was “glad to talk about the portfolio” and agreed climate change is real. “We have dramatically decreased our trajectory” in investing in fossil fuels and went to green energy.

7:18 p.m.

Asked what his strategy is for long-term public health, Read said it is important to learn the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to check ourselves and open the door to new plans” to stay ahead of what may be coming.

7:15 p.m.

In response to a viewer question, Starnes said he thinks Oregon can “do more with solar” to create “green, good paying jobs.”

Carrillo said “we’re not doing enough” and said we need to stop buying fossil fuel-using items. “Let’s implement policies” so that Oregon can be a solar and green energy leader.

Read said the “direction is clear” that we need to move to a cleaner grid, but need to do it responsibly.

Kotek said she led the way in the Oregon legislature to get to a 100% clean future.

7:14 p.m.

Kotek was asked about the minimum wage and how it may or may not affect Oregon’s economy if a recession comes. “I’m a strong supporter of making sure our minimum wage helps” people.

7:12 p.m.

Read, the current Oregon State Treauser, was asked about the PERS system. He discussed “unfunded actuarial liability” and said “Oregonians should feel really confident … about the direction of the PERS system.”

7:08 p.m.

Carillo answered the first viewer question about Oregon’s Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing. He said Measure 11 continues to marginalize people of color.

Read said “we have a lot of work to do” as the surge in violence continues. “I think it’s always appropriate to have that conversation with voters, and I would do that.”

Kotek said it was important to “hold people responsible….and to get the outcomes we want.” She acknowledged the call for appropriate sentencing. “I want to make sure the courts and the sentencing systems are fair.”

Starnes said it is “time to give the judges back the power” to determine sentences. Services for mental health and drugs can help alleviate some of the crime issues.

7:06 p.m

Starnes was asked about what he would do about housing. He said he plans to build more “income-based, affordable housing” if he becomes governor.

7 p.m.

Moderator Ken Boddie explained the rules and criteria for the debate. The the first question to the candidates was about the US Supreme Court’s expected decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Kotek said she anticipated the decision and “no matter what the Supreme Court does there will be access to abortion in Oregon.”

Starnes said he was “proud of all the Oregonians who are rallying all over the state” over this expected decision. “I think we were caught off-guard…I will be there to fight for your right to choose.”

Carrillo called it a “tragic situation.” He disagreed that the expected decision is a surprise. “We have to protect the rights of all Oregonians. I will sue the federal government” if necessary.

Read said this was “an appropriate question to begin with” and described Roe v Wade as settled law. “But it’s important to remember these rights are always just one election away from being taken away.”

The leading Democratic candidates for Oregon governor (L-R) Tina Kotek, Patrick Starnes, George Carrillo and Tobias Read at the KOIN studios for a debate, May 3, 2022 (KOIN)

About the debaters:

  • Tina Kotek was Oregon’s longest-serving House Speaker before stepping down earlier this year to focus on her gubernatorial campaign.
  • Tobias Read is currently serving as Oregon State Treasurer, after winning re-election in 2020. Before that, he was a state lawmaker serving in the House of Representatives.
  • Patrick Starnes ran as an independent in the 2018 governor’s race but changed his registration to become a Democrat again.
  • George Carrillo is currently a program manager at the Oregon Health Authority.

The primary for both Democrats and Republicans in Oregon is May 17.