Today it was pleasant to watch a polite substantive Salem City Club debate between the candidates for Oregon's Senate District 10, Democrat Deb Patterson (the incumbent) and Republican Raquel Moore-Green, who holds the District 19 seat in the Oregon House.
This was the first in-person meeting for the City Club in what seems like forever, but actually is just since Covid struck in early 2020. It felt great to be in the Willamette Heritage Center Dye House in physical reality, rather than watching the program via Zoom.
(That reality included made-to-order lunches by West Salem's Little Lois Cafe. I enjoyed my vegetarian cheese sandwich, plus a slice of yummy frosted banana cake that I added on for a very reasonable $1.)
Patterson and Moore-Green are nice women who struck me as moderates within their political parties. Neither staked out any extreme views. But there were clear differences between them, as you'd expect in a debate between a Democrat and Republican.
There wasn't a whole lot of room between them when it came to homelessness and affordable housing. Not surprisingly, both Patterson and Moore-Green want less of the former and more of the latter. Each said they support expanding the supply of buildable land, with Moore-Green saying she wants to take a look at Oregon's land use program without compromising farm and forest land.
When asked if they support Oregon's Climate Action Plan, Patterson sounded more enthusiastic than Moore-Green, who focused in her answer on transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. Patterson said climate change is one of Oregon's most important problems.
Regarding four statewide measures on the November ballot, Patterson was in favor of Measure 111, which amends the state constitution to make access to health care a fundamental right. Moore-Green talked about the increase in taxes needed to make that happen, which sounded like she opposes the measure.
Measure 112 removes the use of slavery or involuntary servitude from the state constitution, and adds language authorizing an Oregon court or a probation or parole agency to order alternatives to incarceration for a convicted individual as part of their sentencing. Patterson said she supported this measure. Moore-Green didn't comment on it.
Measure 113 disqualifies Oregon legislators from re-election if they're absent from ten or more floor sessions without being excused. Patterson is in favor of it. Moore-Green said that she was part of a Republican walkout and wants to keep this as a tool for the minority party to use.
Measure 114 makes changes to firearm regulations by requiring a permit to buy a gun and limiting magazines to 1o rounds. Patterson said there should be universal background checks, but didn't explicitly say she supports the measure. Moore-Green didn't say anything about it.
On campaign finance reform here in Oregon, Patterson supports it, saying that people and groups shouldn't be able to buy access to politicians, and that races are too costly. Moore-Green wants voters to decide this issue.
In general, Patterson touted her legislative accomplishments and those of the state legislature. Moore-Green talked about the need to get away from one-party rule in Salem, namely the Democratic Party.
When it came time for questions from the audience, both candidates were open to taking a look at the special treatment in state law given the Marion County garbage burner, especially given the amount of medical waste incinerated there, some from outside the United States.
On rent control, both Patterson and Moore-Green said they'd also want to take a look at this. Moore-Green wants rent control to be a local decision; Patterson said we have to listen to all sides in legislation regarding this issue.
I didn't get to ask my question during the City Club program, but after it ended I went up to Moore-Green and said something like this: I'm not picking on you, as I think this question needs to be asked of all Republican candidates. Do you agree that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States, having defeated Donald Trump in a free and fair election?
Moore-Green echoed how many GOP candidates in swing districts address that question. She told me that Biden is president, so he won. I pressed her on the "free and fair" part. She said that the election was free.
But what about fair, I asked her? She wasn't sure about that, saying that Oregon needs to inspect its voter registration rolls. So Moore-Green did what I expected her to do, when before the program started, I told a friend sitting next to me what I was going to ask and why it was such a good question.
It puts Republican candidates in swing districts in a tough spot. If they say that Biden won a free and fair election, they run the risk of alienating the Republican base they need for victory, which is full of election deniers. If they say the election wasn't free and fair, they run the risk of alienating independents they also need for victory.
So Moore-Green did the smart thing. She split my question down the middle, saying Biden won a free election but not a fair one.
Being a loyal Democrat, I'm supporting Deb Patterson in her election. However, Raquel Moore-Green struck me as a perfectly fine Republican candidate for those who tilt in the rightward election.
Maybe she disguised some Republican craziness at the City Club debate, but on the whole she seemed in the mainstream of traditional GOP orthodoxy: low taxes, less government regulation, local control, that sort of thing.