U.S. Senate candidates Gordon Smith and Bill Bradbury clashed on Iraq and taxes in the first of two debates hosted by KGW studios, Monday.
About 10 students from Portland State University attended the debate, all from professor Chris Carey’s freshman inquiry class.
“It’s going to be interesting, I’m really into politics here,” said Stephan Scheller, a freshman who grew up in Germany.
“I think it will be good to hear the candidates talk about important, pressing issues,” said Bethany Damazio, a freshman. “I’m hoping it will be a real debate. That will make it more interesting.”
The debate found the candidates drawing out the distance between the two of them. Smith portrayed Bradbury as a tax-and-spend liberal. In turn, Bradbury said Smith was out of touch with Oregonians.
“The thing you all have in common is that I’ve lowered all your taxes,” Smith said. “Bill Bradbury has raised your taxes.”
Bradbury acknowledged he voted for tax increases during his tenure as an Oregon state senator, but added he also voted for a number of tax reductions. He found fault in Smith’s approach to tax cuts, saying, “It’s not a tax cut that benefits working-class Oregonians.”
Smith offered an anecdote to suggest the Bush tax cut benefited everyone.
“A little Hispanic lady, who knew I was a senator somehow, asked me if I knew President Bush, and I said yes.” She then asked Smith to thank Bush for the income tax refund check she received.
Bradbury suggested Smith was ignoring the will of Oregonians with his lackluster defense of the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.
“I was apparently wrong when I believed that the assisted suicide act violated the controlled substances act,” said Smith, citing recent court rulings that the U.S. government could not prosecute doctors for prescribing lethal doses in accordance with the law.
Responding to Smith’s allegations that he clear-cut his own property, Bradbury said he exceeded the environmental regulations and only harvested select portions. Bradbury then turned the environmental issue back on Smith, saying Smith’s company “had the second-highest environmental fine in history.”
Bradbury attacked Smith for his support of the president’s use-of-force resolution. Bradbury feels it is important to build a strong international coalition and “that coalition gets completely blown apart if we attack pre-emptively,” he said. “I think it’s irresponsible to have voted for that resolution.”
When asked about his previous endorsements by the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance, a group associated with anti-gay-rights measures in Oregon, Smith voiced his newfound support of gay rights.
“I readily admit I’ve changed my mind on this issue,” Smith said. “When Matthew Shepherd was killed I felt a need to do something about a very serious problem in this country.”
In response, Bradbury underlined he was a life-long supporter of gay rights.
The candidates agreed on immigration policy. Neither feels amnesty for illegal immigrants is an option at this time, nor do they feel the immigration policy should be altered in response to the war on terrorism.
“I don’t believe we need stricter immigration laws in this country,” Bradbury said.
In turn, Smith said, “America should remain a land of immigrants.”
Both candidates supported research for medical marijuana.
“I think it’s fair to determine our drug policies in a lab, but not in the back yard,” Smith said, though he voiced concerns about marijuana’s hallucinogenic properties.
Constitution party nominee Lon Mabon and Libertarian candidate Dan Fitzgerald were not invited to the debate, which required that participants have at least 10 percent of support in opinion polls.