OR-1: Key differences emerge in KGW debate

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Tonight, the Democratic candidates for Oregon's 1st - Brad Avakian, Suzanne Bonamici, and Brad Witt - had their only televised debate of the race. If you didn't get a chance to watch it, I strongly encourage to dive in - at least for a few minutes.

Watch: Part 1, Part 2, Closing Statements.

The Oregonian's Harry Esteve opened his recap thusly:

Anyone looking for clear differences among the three Democratic candidates in the race to replace former Oregon Rep. David Wu probably came away disappointed after Tuesday's televised debate.

Brad Witt, Brad Avakian and Suzanne Bonamici largely -- if not completely -- agreed on nearly every issue that came up during the hour-long questioning...

Sorry, but that's complete nonsense.

It seems that the top of Esteve's article hasn't read the bottom of Esteve's article, because near the bottom he notes clear differences on charter schools and marijuana legalization:

Bonamici and Avakian agreed that charter schools suck resources away from public schools and aren't accessible to all. Witt, however, said charter schools in his district "provide critical education to students who would be absolutely lost" without them.

Asked about the federal government stepping in on state medical marijuana laws, Witt said he would seek to decriminalize pot and tax it as a way to bring more revenue for government programs. Avakian said states should be granted autonomy to set their own marijuana laws. Bonamici argued that medical marijuana is an issue for voters to decide, but said she would push for legalization of industrial hemp.

In his report, KGW's Frank Mungeam saw other distinctions, starting with trade:

Rep. Brad Witt said he would push to renegotiate every one of the major free trade agreements, saying they failed to address the needs of U.S. workers. Sen. Bonamici said she would evaluate any trade agreement based on how it affected 1st District workers: "If a trade agreement will brings jobs to the 1st District, it's a good trade agreement. If it doesn't, I won't support it."

Though Mungeam didn't quote him, Avakian once again made his opposition unequivocal on free trade deals.

On the CRC:

The candidates also weighed in on the $3 billion Columbia River Crossing plan. All agreed the project was a priority, but they disagreed about where it ranked on the to-do list. "Our area is in desperate need for a better way to move commerce across the Interstate Bridge," said Witt in emphasizing his support. Both Bonamici and Avakian stressed that other roads and bridges also needed attention, at that the state needed an overhaul of its electrical grid.

On bringing the troops home from Afghanistan:

U.S. overseas military involvement drew some of the strongest statements from candidates. Rep. Witt said troops needed to be brought home in a way that would [not - sic] destabilize the countries we fought to liberate. Sen. Bonamici also said troops should be brought home "when it makes sense to withdraw them," adding that we needed to haev jobs here when we bring them home. However, Labor Commissionar Avakian took a strong stand, saying: "When I say I want the troops home, now...I do mean now." He later elaborated, noting U.S. troop involvement in Iraq, Afghanistand and Libya, that "we have got to get our troops home from the conflicts we have now before we go into another country."

And those are just the words of the candidates. I think there were clear differences in the candidates in style and tone. For now, I'll leave it to you to decide what you think of each candidate's performance.

    • (Show?)

      Granted, that's not an issue likely to be voted on by these candidates. And granted, it makes for a good punch line.

      But the other differences are significant (though perhaps not "huge," Kari's word was "key").

      When and how we close down the war in Afghanistan has budget consequences in the hundreds of billions of dollars, as well as serious human consequences.

      Differences in the priority level of the most expensive public works project in the region's history (the CRC mega-highway) also matter, having impacts of the health of North Portlanders.

      I don't think revisiting the trade agreements, charter schools, or hemp will be large issues in Congress, but differences exist on those issues.

    • (Show?)

      Nice snarky snark, Jack.

      I didn't say the differences are as big as the ones between Rob Cornilles and whoever the D nominee becomes.

      But the reporting from Esteve - that it was a sleepy little affair with no distinctions drawn - is just nonsense, and contradicted by his own reporting.

      • (Show?)

        So do you have to turn in your sense of humor when you become a Democrat?

        • (Show?)

          Is it a requirement run to the "sense of humor" excuse a la Limbaugh when you become a Republican?

        • (Show?)

          Nah, Jack.

          I chuckled at your post, and maybe it was simply made in jest, instead of pooh-poohing all of Kari's post, which is how it came across. Dry humor is extremely hard on-line.

          As long as voters understand the policy differences laid out have significant consequences, I'm all for a good laugh.

        • (Show?)

          Is that really necessary, Jack?

  • (Show?)

    Kudos to Witt for his positions on marijuana and charter schools.

  • (Show?)

    Full disclosure: My firm built Brad Avakian's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

  • (Show?)

    I voted for Suzanne Bonamici (currently out of state, so I got it early) and I intend to do what I can for her general election campaign, but I wish Jeff Mapes had pushed her a bit more on the free trade agreements. I respect her position of analyzing each agreement closely, but how am I to trust her analysis if she hasn't absorbed the information on these agreements and decided how she feels about them yet?

    I appreciate Bonamici's work on industrial hemp, respect Witt's stance on marijuana decriminalization, and support Bonamici and Commissioner Avakian on the charter schools issue (magnet schools are better in all regards, as far as I'm concerned). As an internationalist who believes we had a humanitarian obligation in Libya and a responsibility to our troops and allies to withdraw in a responsible manner from Afghanistan, I prefer Bonamici on foreign policy.

    All three candidates turned in respectable performances, though I kind of liked the fiery Witt we saw at the AFL-CIO debate, and I wonder where that guy went. At the debates and candidate forums since then, Witt has been workmanlike but rarely rousing.

  • (Show?)

    Maybe I really am the Republican I'm sometimes accused of being. I can't see huge differences here, this is pretty much stock in trade Democratic primary issue positions.

    1) Charter schools. A state and local and has almost nothing to do with the US Congress. Why were they even asked?

    2) Pot. One says decriminalize and tax it(which is a non-starter at the Federal level), another says leave it to the states, the third says "leave it to the voters" (how is this different from the second?)

    3) Troops. Again distinctions without a difference. Witt: bring them home but don't destabilize countries. Bonamici: bring them home when it makes sense. Avakian: Bring them home now! But amends to bring them home before we send them somewhere else. (BTW we don't have ground troops in Libya. We fly sorties.)

    4) Trade agreements, I guess you can push to find a bit of daylight there. Avakian is opposed to all trade agreements, Witt wants to renegotiate all agreements. Bonamici will evaluate agreements based on their impact on the 1st.

    5) "Style and tone"? Ok. They are different people. That's not exactly overwhelming and it sure isn't "key differences on the issues."

  • (Show?)

    Is no one else bothered by Ms. Bonamici's apparent lack of concern for workers NOT in her district? If a trade agreement results in a loss of jobs in Salem, or in Troutdale, or in Vancouver she'd vote for it anyway? That's exactly the kind of myopic representation we've just been relieved of and I, for one, would prefer not to go back to it.

    • (Show?)

      There's this myth out there that NAFTA-style trade policies are what keep tech jobs in the 1st District, when actually it's offshoring them like gangbusters. The Alliance of American Manufacturing released a study recently that found that CD1 has lost nearly 20,000 jobs due to unbalanced trade with China -- the 7th most out of all 435 districts across the country. If Solarworld goes bust due to Chinese imports (see today's Oregonian), CD1 may even climb higher on that list.

      Sen. Bonamici not only refuses to indicate her position on potential future trade policy debates, but to even share her views on the impacts of EXISTING trade policies on the district.

connect with blueoregon