I'm not sure how fans of Paul Evans and Dan Farrington will take this, but it's what popped into my mind when a fellow Salem City Club member asked what I thought of the noon-time debate between the House District 20 candidates today.
I said, "It was like watching a debate between two slices of white bread." Not that there's anything wrong with white bread. I just prefer whole wheat, because it has a more interesting flavor.
Neither candidate showed a lot of energy or enthusiasm. Now, I'm not sure whether this was due to both men having low-key personalities, the doldrums that come with the almost-end of a long campaign season, or whatever.
Anyway, both Evans and Farrington were pleasant enough, and while they agreed on some issues, their disagreements reflected a basic fact: Evans is a Democrat; Farrington is a Republican.
This was made most clear in a final question from the audience about abortion rights, a.k.a. a woman's right to choose. Farrington said he's endorsed by Oregon Right to Life, adding incorrectly that Oregon allows a baby to be killed until it is born. Evans, on the other hand, said that he was thunderstruck by the Supreme Court decision and doesn't believe government should control a woman's body.
Asked about prescriptions for a healthy Willamette River, Farrington didn't have any ideas about this, saying that he'd go to professionals and ask their opinion. Evans gave a detailed multipoint answer, demonstrating that being an incumbent legislator brings some added expertise.
Evans was OK with what he called a "time out" on K-12 education standards. Farrington was dead-set against lowering standards, saying that Oregon needs to raise the bar, not lower it, adding that high school graduates aren't prepared to enter the work force.
The commercial activity tax that taxes the revenue of large businesses, not profits, was opposed by Farrington. Evans didn't sound enthusiastic about the tax, but noted that some big businesses have been paying no tax.
The City Club moderator showed a slide indicating that the rate of violent crime in Salem has risen some over the past fifteen years, while property crime has decreased a bit. Asked about this, Evans said there's a problem recruiting police officers and we need to make sure police reform efforts are working. Farrington said that Measure 11o, which decriminalized drugs, is a failure, leading to more crime otherwise. Evans acknowledged that Measure 110 is "goofy."
Regarding their priorities as a legislator, Farrington said he'd work to eliminate Measure 110 and enhance public safety. Evans wants to help those affected by recent wildfires and provide more support for the Oregon State Police.
An audience member said they'd heard about a push to make marijuana illegal in Oregon. Both candidates doubted this would happen, saying there's a problem making something legal, illegal.
Unions were backed by both Farrington and Evans, though Farrington said he doesn't believe workers should be forced to pay union dues. Schooling in the trades was given a big thumbs-up by both candidates.
Asked about a universal health care report (from the legislature, I recall), Evans said he'll reserve judgement and see if Measure 111 passes that enshrines a right to access health care in the Oregon constitution. Farrington said he doesn't support universal health care at all, decrying a single payer system.
Here's the boundary of HD 20.