Suggest debate questions for the AG and SOS candidates

By Alex Aronson of Portland, Oregon. Alex is the communications director of the Bus Project. Learn more and sign up for Rebooting Democracy at RebootingDemocracy.com.

This Sunday, the Bus Project's Rebooting Democracy Conference will hold debates between candidates for Secretary of State and Attorney General.

Of course, since this is the Bus Project, you know that these are not your father's debates! To keep the candidates on their toes, each candidate is going to get chances to increase their own time, to decrease their opponents' time, and to "call bull" on their opponents. With the usual question and answer session, a "lightning round" of policy stances, and even a short Oregon-centric quiz, it's guaranteed to be unpredictable and enlightening.

First, at 11:20 on Sunday, John Kroger and Greg Macpherson will square off for the Attorney General debate, moderated by John Frohnmayer.

Then, at 12:45, the stage will be swamped with one-sixth of the Oregon State Senate: Brad Avakian, Kate Brown, Rick Metsger, and Vicki Walker will debate the finer points of the Secretary of State's Office while Senator Ben Westlund moderates the discussion.

And of course, since it's the Bus Project, we're looking for your input!

We need questions, so now's your chance to play get answers. Let us know your ideas for:

  1. General questions. Anything you might want answered and expanded upon. These questions usually start with "What have you done about..." or "What are your plans for..." But why stop there! Questions can also start with "Who is your favorite..." or "Tell about an embarrassing..."

  2. Yes and No questions for the "Lightning Round." These can be policy-related ("Will you support...") or not ("Have you ever...").

  3. Quiz questions. These are how the candidates can earn more time... or earn the ability to interrupt an opponent! Good questions should be Oregon-focused, with special attention given to the Attorney General's or the Secretary of State's offices.

Remember, this debate is meant to inform you about the candidates as well as keep the debates lively. Post your questions in the comments below.

Comments

  • pat malach (unverified)
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    Diamonds or pearls?

    (Northwest version)

    Fleece or Gortex?

  • DW (unverified)
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    What kind of legal management experience to both of the AG candidates have?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    So, I'm wondering: is a current candidate for office a proper moderator for a discussion by candidates for another office? How would such a moderator place the value of equitable debate over the interests of his own campaign?

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    SOS: With 2008 looking like it may have at least 10 special interest ballot measures, what will you do as Secretary of State to significantly reduce the number of measures that bypass deliberative, representative democracy, the check-and-balance system, and careful compromise and drafting?

    AG: Corporate polluters who break laws and poison our water and air are usually assessed a small fine, or given a warning. What will you do to significantly strengthen the state's enforcement of environmental laws, and protect Oregon's natural beauty?

  • Adam HD34 (unverified)
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    I would like to know how each of the SOS candidates feel about Fusion Voting, and Instant Run off voting. And if neither of those is to their liking what voting changes they think would increase political power for people at large.

  • Janice W (unverified)
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    According to Brad Blog's, Brad Friedman, Oregon's vote by mail system has a high potential for corruption but, it has been Oregon's Attorney General that has kept our system honest and legal. Will you change our voting system in anyway? If so, how? How will you ensure that all votes are counted correctly?

  • LT (unverified)
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    I am having a hard time deciding between 3 of the 4 Sec. of State candidates, so support of Fusion voting or IRV without an explanation of how those systems would be explained to the general public (very bright, very busy people, for instance, don't always know the difference between a referendum and a legislative referral) would help me eliminate a candidate. I believe "power to the people" is the recent ruling by Judge Graves that the legislature has the power to regulate the initiative industry. Somewhere in that paragraph there should be at least one good question.

    Specific question(s) which could be worded for either Sec. of State or AG:

    The Public Comm. on the Legislature proposed changes in election law. Those ranged from a) questioning the legal status of pass throughs (contribution to X gets sent to Y, but did the candidate own that contribution or was it the property of the entity of the campaign committee?) to b)open primary to c)nonpartisan legislature.

    Where do the candidates stand on those election law/process issues, and are they able to present information on them to the general public? There are those who think the legal status of pass throughs should be an AG question---could a legal opinion from a strong AG define that legal status, or would it need law or court decision to define it? I know of one Sec. of State candidate who was able to mention one of those PCOL issues in a forum answer of about a minute or so, and another Sec. of State candidate who seemed in a conversation afterwards to have a strong opinion but not to have even thought about mentioning the issue or the opinion publicly.

    No issue relating to elections is every going to have public support if those outside of political junkie circles never heard the issue exists.

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    For the Attorney General:

    How would you handle ongoing cases being dealt with by the Attorney General's office? Specifically, the fate of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers will be determined by a case that has been working its way through the courts for several years, and will have broad impacts on Oregon's economy and environment, and the cost of power. The State of Oregon, among the many litigants, has staked out a strongly pro-salmon position.

      [Judge Redden] underscored many of the concerns the State of Oregon, Native American tribes on the lower Columbia River and conservation groups voiced in their court filings. Oregon officials have been some of the strongest critics of the federal approach, telling the judge that the federal plan "manipulates science to justify policy objectives that subordinate the needs of protected fish. "Indeed, in some significant respects, the new plan provides even less protection for listed fish than did its predecessor," David Leith, an Oregon Department of Justice attorney, wrote on behalf of Attorney General Hardy Myers.

    Judge rips latest plan to help salmon, 12/11/07

    How do you see this case affecting the future of Oregon – what is most at stake? How would you approach the case, and how would you characterize a successful outcome?

    Another prominent case is the one against the RIAA. Myers' office is defending the U of O from having to release private information on students alleged to have shared music illegally. Would this sort of civil rights case be a priority for you?

  • Megan Hanner (unverified)
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    Will the secretary of state candidates campaign to pass same day registration?

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    Also for AG:

    Would you support the repeal of 1994's Measure 10, which requires a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature in order to adjust Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentences?

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    For the Secretary of State candidates:

    The Secretary of State's office oversees elections, interacts with every business in the state, draws district boundaries, and maintains records for the state. Perhaps more than any office in the state, we need someone with strong ethics, a deep sense of fairness, The Secretary of State must hold other officials and government entities accountable, even when it is politically unpopular to do so, and even within one's own party. If these qualities are not present, the government stands to lose credibility with all of Oregon's 3.5 million residents.

    What have you done that demonstrates these character traits? Where have you held someone's feet to the fire, even knowing that doing so might adversely affect your reputation or your career?

  • Janice W (unverified)
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    Excellent question for SOS Peter Forsyth!

  • Hardball (unverified)
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    For SOS Candidates:

    Hypothetically speaking, if Bill Walton were the "honorary chair" of your campaign for Oregon SOS, how would you handle pressure to help pass legislation to legalize the recreational use of cocaine?

  • Questions (unverified)
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    A number of questions were asked in response to John Kroger's recent post on BlueOregon, which Kroger never answered.

    Pennoyer summarized many of these questions in a single post. I have pasted it below. I'd like to see the candidates' views on many of these issues.

    This looks like a post ghost-written by a staffer, since Kroger hasn't bothered to respond to any of the questions posed - many of them quite reasonable.

    Does he even know he blogged on BlueOregon today?

    For the record, here's the questions posed above and ignored by Kroger:

    Does Kroger support mandatory minimum sentences for repeat property offenses, like three-strikes laws?

    Does Kroger only support mandatory minimum sentences for the most heinous violent crimes (like rape and murder), or for all physical crimes (like third-degree assault)?

    Can you comment on the court case about dams on the Columbia River system, currently working through the courts?

    On sentencing, would you support the repeal of 1994's Measure 10, which requires a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature to modify Measure 11's provisions?

    It looks like we'll vote on some form of legalization [of marijuana] in Portland during the next AG's term: what's your stance?

    I don't hear anything about helping those those who own homes that were used as meth labs. Who is going to help the "forgotten innocent victims", who are being abandoned by their government?

    Have you given any consideration to including attorneys who represent drug-dependent/addicted persons in the crafting of a new drug treatment and prevention policy?

    We're waiting.

  • Pennoyer (unverified)
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    Let's start with all the questions from BlueOregon readers that Kroger failed to answer on his earlier blog post (that was ghost-written by a staffer.)

    Does this mean that Kroger supports mandatory minimum sentences for repeat property offenses, like three-strikes laws? Does Kroger only support mandatory minimum sentences for the most heinous violent crimes, or for all physical crimes? Can you comment on the court case about dams on the Columbia River system, currently working through the courts? On sentencing, would you support the repeal of 1994's Measure 10, which requires a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature to modify Measure 11's provisions? It looks like we'll vote on some form of legalization [of marijuana] in Portland during the next AG's term: what's your stance? I don't hear anything about helping those those who own homes that were used as meth labs. Who is going to help the "forgotten innocent victims", who are being abandoned by their government? Have you given any consideration to including attorneys who represent drug-dependent/addicted persons in the crafting of a new drug treatment and prevention policy?
  • Pennoyer (unverified)
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    Hey! Great idea!

  • anonymous (unverified)
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    Ben Westlund is moderating? In addition to being a current candidate, Westlund's campaign manager also works for Rick Metsger, one of the secretary of state candidates. That's an obvious conflict of interest. The Bus Project should not allow him to moderate this debate. Or better, Westlund should voluntarily withdraw.

  • TL (unverified)
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    AG:

    Why should John Frohnmeyer not run for the US Senate and screw up an opportunity to take out Gordon Smith?

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    SOS:

    Do you support the practice of disqualifying initiative petition signatures based on statistical sampling or do you think each and every signature should be independently confirmed?

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    AG:

    On balance, which is the more important function of the AG's office: legal evaluation of pending or standing legislation and representing the state as a party in court cases; or acting as an enforcement arm for previously enacted laws and advocating for new laws in the broad public interest?

    SOS:

    Who do you side with regarding the Governor's executive order on driver's licenses--Legislative Counsel, which has determined there is no authority for the order; or the Governor's office, which claims the order falls under DMV's authority to "determine eligibility?" Should federal immigration status be an aspect of that eligibility for a license? And would you support having license expiration tied directly to the expiration of citizenship status documentation?

  • mconley (unverified)
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    For SOS: Where do you stand on making the SOS a non-partisan office?

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    For SOS candidates: As a member of the State Land Board, will you support the establishment of a network of marine reserves off the Oregon coast to help restore sustainable fish populations.

    For the Attorney general candidates: If it is demonstrated that a landslide blocking a state highway was caused, more likely than not, by a clearcut on a steep slope originating on private land, should the state bring an action against the landowner to recover the costs of clearing the slide based on a theory of public nuisance?

  • Alex Aronson (unverified)
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    Thanks to all for your great questions; please keep them coming in. Looks like the conference is gonna be good.

    As for Westlund, he participated in Rebooting Democracy '06 when he was a Republican, and we didn't think we should punish him just because he switched parties. :-) We'd wanted a Treasurer debate (just like we wanted some filed R candidates by now), but when he was the only candidate, the volunteer planning committee felt this was a decent way to include him and highlight the Treasurer's race (rather than a stump speech or ignoring the race entirely.) In any event, don't be too worried: Westlund hasn't endorsed anyone in the race, nor is he deciding the questions that are asked (that's for online submitters and conference attendees).

    As for other updates: Looks like conference attendance will exceed 400, which is great...still lots of last minute work to do (help welcome!). If you have questions or comments about the conference or the debates, please feel free to contact me directly (503-233-3018, or at alex.aronson[at]busproject.org).

    For now, please keep submitting more good AG and SOS questions -- we want at least 10 or 15 more good ones.

  • A. Rab. (unverified)
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    For the AG debate:

    What three issues will you prioritize as Attorney General?

    Should there be a statewide approach to meth, or is a localized policy more effective?

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    All of these candidates:

    How would you use the office to hold state government accountable for delivering essential services to vulnerable populations?

    Two examples of where we currently are miserably failing:

    1) Education Funding across the board is at levels you could argue (as some have) are illegal. What legal action will you take to force corrections in this? Sue the state?

    2) The bureaucracy called the Oregon Department of Human Services is utterly broken and is failing in its legal responsibility to protect children or adults. Aside from fixing contributing factors (like fighting meth as the A.G.) what are you going to do to force reform in this sluggish and unresponsive embarrassment?

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    Ben has not endorsed and is not involved with any of the Sec. of State campaigns because they are all his friends and colleagues and I'm sure they trust him to do a good job.

    I know the organizers of this conference have worked hard to ensure fairness, that's why they are asking you to propose your questions here.

  • A. Rab. (unverified)
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    For AG:

    What are your views on the independence of the Attorney General and the independence of the Judiciary?

    For All:

    Would you serve your entire term, or would you run for another office in 2010?

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    For the candidates for Secretary of State:

    Since you are next in line to become Governor should the serving Governor become incapacitated or resign, I am concerned that you have a vision for Oregon's future in a world in which the economies of Asia, especially of China, are several multiples as large as the economy of the United States. So two questions:

    (1) Do you think the economy of China will become twice as large as the economy of the United States in your lifetime? And either way, what do you think we should be doing now in Oregon in response to the economic growth in Asia?

    (2) Currently less than one percent of Oregon public K-12 students study Mandarin. Would you support a high priority effort to increase that to five percent by 2015?

  • Chicken Or Egg? (unverified)
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    Elvis

    or

    Beatles?

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    Pennoyer: Let's start with all the questions from BlueOregon readers that Kroger failed to answer on his earlier blog post (that was ghost-written by a staffer.)

    You and Question forgot one: "Mr. Kroger - have you or have you not stopped beating your mother?"

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    Do we do Congressional redistricting just like we do legislative seat redistricting? (that is, Legislature takes a stab and if no plan is agreed to with them and the Gov then the SOS gets to do it, right?)

    SOS How do you see going about creating Oregon's 6th Congressional district, should the responsibility fall to you? Do you feel the Portland urban liberals are underrepresented, as they are overly concentrated in one district?

    Quiz: which ballot measure historically has spent the most per vote received? Which winning ballot measure has spent the least per vote received?

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    Posted by: Evan Manvel | Jan 10, 2008 4:12:11 PM Do we do Congressional redistricting just like we do legislative seat redistricting? (that is, Legislature takes a stab and if no plan is agreed to with them and the Gov then the SOS gets to do it, right?)

    Congressional districts are drawn up by the legislature and signed by the Gov. If there is an impasse, it goes to the Federal courts. Only state office districting goes to the SoS if there is an impasse of the Leg./Gov.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)
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    A. Rab's question -- would you serve your entire term, or would you run for another office in 2010? -- is a very good one.

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    For SOS candidates:

    If you were not a candidate for this office, out of the other three candidates who would you vote for and why?

  • JTT (unverified)
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    SOS: (imagine a good Ben Westlund voice) Three of the four of you voted in favor of HB 2614 (2005), which prohibited voters who participate in their party's primary from later signing a nominating petition sheet for independent candidates...say, (ahem) for Governor for instance. When one of you wins the Democratic party's nomination in four months, you'll have to court the state's growing share of independent voters in order to win the General election. If one of the roles of the Secretary of State is to enfranchise citizens in the democratic process, how will you explain your 2005 vote to independent voters?

    AG: Since Oregon has some of the loosest medical malpractice-tort systems, do you see any kind of tort reform (i.e. caps, pre-screen panel, "expert" witness reform) as a part of Oregon solution for health care reform? If so, what would you advocate...if not, why not?

  • LT (unverified)
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    Great question JTT--I can just imagine Ben's voice.

  • Jeremy Rogers (unverified)
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    SOS:

    In order to quash ballot title shopping, would you push for a significant increase in the 25-signature threshold that is currently required to submit an initiative petition to the state for the development of a ballot title?

  • LT (unverified)
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    Jeremy, apparently the legislature already did that:

    http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008801100333

    The law does away with a requirement for all signatures on a petition sheet to come from the same county because a centralized voter-registration system allows for easier verification. The law allows for an electronic signature sheet that an individual voter can download from home, sign and return to the sponsors.

    The law also requires initiative sponsors to obtain 1,000 signatures, instead of 25, before they can get an official summary known as a ballot title prior to circulating petitions.

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    SOS

    1) Oregon is one of only 3 states in America with no limits on campaign contributions. Do you support limits on campaign contributions.

    2) Do you support eliminating the corporate kicker for the purpose of seeding a rainy day fund?

  • Pennoyer (unverified)
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    Steve Maurer -- Which of the questions posed on the earlier Kroger guest column (none of which I wrote) are of the "beating your mother" catch-22 variety?

    I saw a bunch of interesting question - from marijuana legalization to minimum sentencing to Columbia River dams.

    If a candidate is going to come here and ask for our feedback, and invite us to ask him questions, then he should show us the courtesy of answering a few.

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    You started out, with no evidence whatsoever, asserting that Mr. Kroger didn't write his own piece for Blue Oregon, in the prejudicially based belief that he's somehow not at all busy in pursuing a very competitive statewide race. So you and "Question" attack him for not answering your questions immediately, while not even bothering to note that Greg doesn't even take the time to write anything at all here.

    Double standard much?

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    Here's a good question. Kind of a beginner break the ice one. It came from my son, Mark Maurer (age 10):

    What's an Attorney General, and what exactly does he do?

  • GLA (unverified)
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    SOS 1. Why does Oregon need a Secretary of State? Couldn't all of the functions be done as well and more efficiently by other existing state agencies? 2. How can citizens be confident of fair elections if the elections process is run by a partisan official?

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    I have to congratulate JTT on his question regarding HB2614, especially now that I have to re-register as a Democrat after going NAV for Westlund.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Good question, GLA. The Public Comm. on the Legislature discussed that and decided maybe Elections should be taken from Sec. of State (there are other aspects to the office) and given to a nonpartisan new position.

  • Pennoyer (unverified)
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    So you and "Question" attack him for not answering your questions immediately, while not even bothering to note that Greg doesn't even take the time to write anything at all here.

    I posted my comment noting that he failed to answer any questions over 12 hours after the post went up. It's now been a week, and still not a word from Kroger.

    I'm not a Macpherson supporter, and I don't care whether he posts here or not. I just think it's rude to post here and then refuse to engage people who ask questions.

    It would be like hosting a public meeting, giving a speech, and refusing to take questions. It's just rude.

    Does Kroger want my vote or not?

  • anonymous (unverified)
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    The issue with Westlund moderating is not that he is biased, but that Stacey Dycus, his campaign manager, is. Dycus should be biased toward Metsger; that's her job. But it also means that any information that's held by the Westlund campaign will be passed to Metsger. Anyone have any ideas on how to fix it?

  • Alex Aronson (unverified)
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    Fortunately, for the reasons outlined by anonymous above, Stacey Dycus ain’t the one moderating.

    All the candidates—and Ben Westlund—have the exact same information about the debate format, rules and questions. As I wrote earlier, Westlund isn’t picking the questions. He won’t see them until the Sunday, when we deliver them to him onstage in sealed envelopes.

    If any of the candidates want a real edge, they should take a good close look at the questions in this thread.

    See you all tomorrow at Rebooting. If you're looking for a day pass just let us know, we can hook that up. Hit us up at 503-233-3018. Or go check out RebootingDemocracy.com

  • (Show?)

    Janice W: thanks for the compliment! In my (not so very humble) view, that is THE question for SoS. Though, many others here are also excellent.

    JTT: Yes, EXCELLENT question on HB 2614. (Don't forget Open Primary as one way to deal with that!)

    Steve Maurer: Fortunately, we'll also find out if Greg has stopped beating his mom too! What a great opportunity.

    Pennoyer: I have it on good authority that your Kroger theory is bunk. I happen to agree that he should have responded, and think your public meeting analogy is very apt. But your accusation of it being ghost-written is just wrong.

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    For all: Gang of Four or Scritti Politti?

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    Ooh, good question Chris, cause there is definitely a right/wrong answer there! Good litmus test. Your posts are usually pretty smart, so I'm sure there's a reason you came up with this. Good work.

    Steven, it occurred to me that with all this domestic abuse questions, we might be setting things up for a big victory for victims' rights everywhere. Ain't it nice to see a campaign really getting at the issues?

    I like your son's question, too.

  • anonymous (unverified)
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    Imagine if this debate were happening on a national scale. The moderator of the Democratic Presidential Debates not only has political motivations himself, but is also directly tied to Clinton's political strategist (not to say any of the SOS candidates are like Clinton... you get the analogy). The organizer of the event says it's fine, the strategist says to trust her candidate. Do we really think that would be ok?

    I know Oregon's political world is small and people wear many hats. But we should be able to expect that our electoral debates are run fairly, and part of that is avoiding the appearance of impropriety. If one or more of the candidates dropped out of this debate, I wouldn't blame them at all. After all, they're running for an office where integrity of the process is paramount.

    This weekend's debate is one of the biggest debates in the primary, if not the biggest one. The Bus Project should meet a higher standard. Oregon's Democrats deserves better.

  • (Show?)

    Oregon Progressives have been split on approaches to campaign finance reform, and a number of proposals have been filed as initiatives and are being discussed formally and informally here this weekend.

    As Secretary of State what form of campaign finance reform will you propose, if any? What will you support, if any? Are you merely going to focus on implementation of the current system or are you proposing or supporting any significant changes?

  • Nancy Matela (unverified)
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    All issues are a moot point if our elections are not handled fairly. Oregon uses computers and trade-secret software to count the votes. The SOS office oversees this all important process. The debate must include a question about how the candidates plan to make Oregon's vote counting transparent.

  • John Kroger (unverified)
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    Hey folks:

    I have personally written everything I have posted on Blue Oregon or on my own website. I wish I could answer in writing every question posted here, many of which are excellent, but unfortunately, I am very busy campaigning around the state. I hope I can answer many of these quesitons at the debate this weekend. In addition, I will always make time to talk about public policy. If you have questions about the AG's office, feel free to call me at our campaign at (503) 224-3316. If I am in, I would be happy to talk, and if I am out, I will call you back as soon as I can. Take care -- John

  • JTT (unverified)
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    Anony- let's ask Alex if any of the debating candidates and their campaigns have expressed any concern about the neutrality of the moderator...before calling people's characters' into question. If not, then what's the problem? I don't see a conflict. P.S. ingenious move by the Bus to submit a public request for questions to ensure a level playing field.

    Disclosure: I have a personal interest in having Westlund be the moderator, as the appropriate irony of my submitted question depends on it.

  • anonymous (unverified)
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    Anonymous bloggers should not advocate openness and integrity. It is much like Larry Craig advocating the sanctity of public bathrooms.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: anonymous | Jan 11, 2008 4:15:29 PM ... It is much like Larry Craig advocating the sanctity of public bathrooms.

    Good point. What's your stance on that issue?

    (ba-da-bump)

  • Mary Mack (unverified)
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    For both SOS and AG:

    The federal case against the domestic parnters (to be heard at the end of the month) act threatens more than the LGBTetc community. It threatens to gut our Oregon representative system of government.

    1. It seeks to invalidate statistical sampling for validating initiatives. This will raise the cost of administering elections. This may also allow failed initiatives like DomPart on the ballot in 08.

    2. Kevin Mannix also has a failed iniative this year---to make it impossible for the legislature to alter the initiative system.

    3. The combination of these two things could make it impossible for our legislators to do anything, and for out of state interests to hamstring oiur election process.

    4. Even though it is reasonable to statistically sample and it has been done evenhandedly through the years, this case is being heard by a judge who helped persuade Justice Powell in changing his vote on sodomy laws at the supreme court. He evidently found enough value in an Idaho case that addressed uban/rural disparaties in signature requirements to address this statistical sampling argument. This judge was recommended by Gordon Smith.

    Question: What will you do in the next 3 weeks, and then beyond to protect Oregon's representative system of government and at the same time, balance citizen's rights to initiatives?

  • (Show?)

    lestatdelc: (ba-da-bump)

    Hey, I laughed.

  • Nitin Rai (unverified)
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    AG: What are your thoughts on the current state of family law in Oregon where there is no presumption of joint custody and shared parenting. All research shows that such a presumption or system is in the best interest of kids. Most states including WA now have joint custody as a presumption and some like Wisconsin have shared parenting as a presumption. Why has the legislature not changed these laws?

  • (Show?)

    Let's hear it for a great pair of debates! Great job, Team Reboot.

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