Oregon debate: Candidates lash out at Tina Kotek after accusation of being a 'liar'


    The debate between Republican candidate Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek and Independent candidate Betsy Johnson was shown live on KGW and YouTube. Things got heated over a discussion of increasing funding for the police in Oregon as Johnson slammed Kotek for calling her a “liar”.

    Recent polls show that Drazen and Kotek are neck and neck while Johnson has fallen behind.

    The candidates were asked: “Do you think we need more police officers? If so, how do you fill vacancies?”

    Kotek was first to answer the staffing shortage issue saying: “When people call 911 they need to feel safe and have the right response at the right time and we do need more officers.”

    She proposed to increase class sizes and available training for local law enforcement to pick new candidates from and to ensure that crime labs are always at full capacity so evidence can be effectively processed.

    Kotek also advocated for multiple types of response such as mental health crisis advisors who can help at a scene of a mental health crisis, for example.

    She controversially added: “I’ve always supported state police.”

    Republican candidate Christine Drazan retorted: “Tina Kotek is the original defund the police candidate.

    “She did not support the police even when rioters were attacking a police station.

    “It is stunning to me that she would talk now like she supports law enforcement. I will support law enforcement. As governor I will fully fund state police.

    “We deserve, that we need that and as Governor I will ensure that is our future.”

    The Republican candidate noted that due to less police on the streets, it is less safe today as there are less officers to ensure community safety and enforce laws.

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    Betsy Johnson sided with Drazen over Kotek’s call of support for the police, saying: “I’m surprised by Tina’s answer because we’ve got to start by respecting our police.

    “That doesn’t mean walking with the rioters…We’ve got to start by respecting the police and as Governor I would absolutely do that.”

    Johnson mentioned that Kotek wrote a letter to the Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler “siding with the rioters” which Kotek later clarified was about the use of tear gas in a residential area.

    The Independent candidate stated that under Kotek a “culture of lawlessness” had emerged as she mentioned the rioting of the Bison Coffee House which was damaged after the owner was open to having a discussion with police.

    Democrat Tina Kotek replied: ‘I think it’s important when you’re running for governor that you don’t lie to voters. They are both misrepresenting my record. I do support law enforcement.”

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    Ms Kotek also stated how she condemned the event at the coffee house and had visited the venue after the incident.

    Johnson hit back at Kotek’s accusation of misrepresentation, saying: “As long as she’s accused me of being a liar, did you or did you not write a letter to the mayor in support of the rioters versus the police?”

    Kotek responded: “I did not. That letter was inappropriate use of tear gas in a residential neighbourhood.”

    The Democrat added that her priority is getting the correct response from law enforcement, and she noted that it is also important “to hold law enforcement to account. You can do both.”

    Drazan and Johnson appeared frustrated after Kotek got the last word before the hosts moved the debate on.


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