Two students were invited as guests of City Club to attend the debate we co-hosted. Here at their responses to the questions we asked them.

Do you think the candidates have a good understanding of the issues facing your generation? The issues facing my generation are clear, climate change, preserving democracy, and decreasing social and economic inequality, but I feel the candidates have varying degrees of acknowledgment of these issues. While candidates Kotek and Johnson could agree about the general issue of preserving abortion access, Christine Drazan appeared out of touch with general public opinion and just repeated conservative talking points such as third-trimester abortions. On environmental issues facing Oregon, two candidates appeared to have an understanding of the issues, but they struggled to convey specific plans to tackle these issues. On questions about the housing crisis and homelessness, Tina Kotek acknowledged the problems and vowed to double down on plans already in place, while both other candidates focused on attacking said plans of the previous administration. Candidate Kotek conveyed the best knowledge of issues facing my generation and was able to convey the most concrete strategies out of the three candidates.

How did you feel about their priorities? Candidates Johnson and Drazan have promised a divergence from the Kate Brown years, and especially Christine Drazan has based much of her campaign around taking Oregon in a new direction. Drazan’s priorities appear to be focused on repealing actions taken in the last eight years. This is frustrating to me, as correcting mistakes in the past are important, but her priorities appear to be solely focused on rebuking the Brown administration, instead of moving the state forward. As Betsey Johnson has expressed throughout her campaign, she believes that she can get more done than her competitors because she is an independent and could bypass partisan obligations. The fact of the matter for a two-party system is that partisan divides can’t be simply avoided and banking on the ability for two political sides to come together to get anything done, seems a recipe for delayed and ineffective legislation. Tina Kotek’s priorities appear to be to continue many of the policies and actions of Kate Brown’s administration but to clean up the inter-agency mess that has developed in the past few years. I think these priorities are largely fine, but it is my hope that Ms. Kotek, if elected governor, would continue pushing on issues like climate and gun safety.

Would a debate like this help you make a decision on who to vote for? Debates are a very useful tool to compare candidates side by side and learn more about their priorities. I think seeing a debate could definitely convince a voter one way or another. The only drawback of debates is having a polished on-stage appearance doesn’t always correlate to a good candidate. Before voting, I would have to research the individual candidates more thoroughly before I came to a decision, but I still think debates are an excellent way to have candidates express their ideas in person and in front of voters.

-Van, Caldera High School

Do you think the candidates have a good understanding of the issues facing your generation? I think the candidates had somewhat of an understanding of issues that currently face my generation. I’m glad that a lot of the questions that were asked included issues facing kids and teens in schools currently, the effect that the COVID pandemic had on students and regulations and the large issues surrounding climate change and how it affects Oregon. Although these questions were asked, I think the candidates’ responses were still very broad in some cases and didn’t address the parts of the questions at all. All three candidates spent some of their initial responses attacking other candidates rather than addressing the problems asked in the question and stating plans on how they would help mitigate them. In some cases directly affecting students in my generation now, what stuck out to me was the focus on test scores and how those should be raised with more rigorous schooling. There was never really a focus on mental health of students, or how Oregon schools are experiencing horrible teacher shortages, which surprises me as standardized test scores are becoming less important when it comes to college applications and for trying to look at academic success in a student population. When it came to global issues like climate change and its immediate threat, I was glad to see all three candidates agreeing on how it is a major issue for Oregon. I was disappointed though at the rest of the candidates’ responses since they didn’t go very in-depth on the actual plans they had to combat climate change in Oregon. Overall, I was glad these issues got addressed but quite frustrated that there weren’t any specifics on how these issues will be handled.

How did you feel about their priorities? All three candidates clearly laid out which issues would be their top priorities, which I find quite helpful as a listener to a debate. Depending on the question, some candidates gave great strong responses which distinctly conveyed that they saw the topic with great interest and with great importance to that subject. Priorities such as the homeless crisis along with drug overdoses and mass shootings are major problems Oregon is currently facing. I was glad that all three of these were addressed by every candidate and it helped as a listener and as a voter to see where each candidate aligned on certain topics. Certain candidates definitely had priorities outside of those three mentioned and seeing how they responded to rebuttals, and how they planned to address certain topics as governor made me sway one way or another over my opinion of the candidate themselves. When it came to questions about abortion rights in Oregon and gun reform policies seeing how candidates reacted gave me a clear indication on where they stood on those issues and what they fought for surrounding those situations.

Would a debate like this help you make a decision on who to vote for? A debate like this would definitely help me decide who to vote for and this one definitely had. Seeing where candidates lie on certain issues from a more real point of view rather than from just political ads, gives a greater sense of how they would actually be like as governor. Seeing how the candidates actively respond to questions while having a rigorous script also showed their true colors in a way. Being more informed about each candidate and their beliefs on certain issues, especially one that matter to me on a personal level, helps set them apart from one another. I do wish that more diverse questions were asked to get a better sense of candidates’ responses on specific subjects like housing disparities, police reform, racism in Oregon as a whole, and LGBTQ+ rights and protections. Overall this debate helped me become more informed about the current governor race and helped me get a good understanding of which candidate to vote for.

-Rain, Summit High School

Thank you to the Classroom Law Project for connecting us with students and teachers in our community.