From abortion to the 'kicker' refund and those Republican walkouts
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Considering the tenor of their “attack” ads in the high-profile race for Bend’s Oregon Senate District 30, one might have expected a verbal brawl between Republican incumbent Tim Knopp and Democrat challenger Eileen Kiely during Tuesday evening’s live debate on KTVZ.
But for whatever reason(s) – a weariness in the final campaign stretch after several debates, or other factors – while the two indeed clashed on some issues, most notably abortion and last year's GOP walkouts, they rarely went on the attack, and when they did, it was more of a disagreement.
Kiely noted in her opening statement and several other times her work as a Fortune 500 financial executive who knows how to “balance a billion-dollar budget,” and her service as a Naval officer also vowing to “stand up for our LGBTQ neighbors and a woman’s right to choose.”
Knopp, meanwhile, stressed his varied roles in over 40 years in Central Oregon, as well as his efforts as being an independent voice, to the point where the Independent Party has endorsed him (while Kiely also has the endorsement of the Working Families Party).
The first question from moderator Lee Anderson might have seem out of left field, noting the movement by some in Central and Eastern Oregon to join “Greater Idaho” and asking what they would do to make those folks feel better represented.
“Actually, Lee, that’s a fun question,” Kiely said, adding that she’s visited all 36 counties and that “our diversity is our strength.”
“It is true, we’re not well represented in Salem,” she said. “People from our side won’t negotiate with their side. They stick to party. As a result, I don’t think our agriculture, forest, environmental needs are being heard. That’s an important reason I want to go there and work.”
Knopp said his family’s roots date back to the 1840s and the Oregon Trail, and said many east of the Cascades are upset by the doings in Salem “because the Legislature is out of balance. Democrats have super-majorities in both chambers and have every statewide office except the secretary of state. So they don’t feel like their voice is being heard.”
“The last thing we need to do is go further out of balance by sending another Democrat” to Salem, Knopp said, also stressing again, “I’m committed to working in a bipartisan way.”
Kiely soon was first to raise the issue of Knopp’s participation with fellow Republicans in recent walkouts from the Legislature: “You leave the table, you lose your voice – and I’ll never give up my voice,” she said.
Knopp said it happened due to the Democrats’ obstinance and refusal to listen: “Sometimes they simply decide they don’t want to listen to you. I think it’s important to have legislators who stand up to that.”
Coincidentally, the next question was whether it’s appropriate for lawmakers to walk out of a session, if they're unhappy with a bill.
“No,” Kiely said. “It’s not appropriate. Often, when I was negotiating (contracts), I had a losing hand. And I still stayed at the table and worked to find that common ground. You know, you don’t get perfect. You get the best you can. And that's what we should be fighting for, the best we can for Central Oregon. If you leave the table, you lose your voice.”
Knopp said of walkouts, “I think it should be a last resort,” noting some called them them “peaceful protests. I participated in one of them. And the reason I did is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want to listen to the thousands and tens of thousands of voices that are in Central and Eastern Oregon. They just decided to do what they wanted to do on a cap-and-trade bill.”
“I said I would support a climate bill, but I wasn't going to support the most complicated and expensive bill that the Legislature really has seen, as it relates to this. And sometimes, when you stall the process – which is part of the rules, (both parties) have done it – you get an even greater voice. I wanted people to understand what was going to happen” under the bill, raising the gas tax at least 72 cents a gallon, home heating costs by 50 percent and costing many jobs.
Kiely said that in her business life, “If I gave up when people didn’t want to listen to me, I’d have never got anything accomplished.” But Knopp said, “The reason that bill failed wasn’t due to the walkout. Democrats wouldn’t vote for it, because they knew it wasn’t the right solution.”
When it came time to ask each other a question, Kiely returned to a previous topic: “You’ve introduced many pieces of legislation to restrict a woman’s right to choose.”
Knopp replied, “I’m pro-life, and believe we need to defend the most vulnerable among us. Those are the people that have no voice. Oregon is the only state in the country with zero restrictions, as it relates to abortion.”
Defending his votes for parental notification and against “partial birth abortion,” he said “the majority of this district wants to restrict abortion after the first trimester, except for rape, incest and the life of the mother, and I would support that.”
But Kiely said, “This right has been important for women being able to life the life they want to live,” and that the district’s strong vote against a state ballot measure showed “Central Oregonians are for a woman’s right to choose.”
Knopp responded, “I think there are people who want to scare women, that things are going to change, regardless of what happens in (the Supreme) Court. I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve been in the Legislature 14 years, and there’s been two, maybe three votes on the issue.”
Knopp’s question of Kiely was whether she would commit to not voting for pay raises for legislators.
“For me, I can commit to that right now,” Kiely replied, though she did say many others cannot serve because they aren’t in a financial position to leave their jobs for weeks.
“We need younger people, we need people of color, various communities” to serve. “Part of that is campaign finance reform,” she added.
The last question of the night focused on the “kicker” refund – what’s returned to Oregon taxpayers when revenues top estimates by over 2 percent.
Kiely noted voters put the kicker is in the state Constitution. “The only way the kicker can be taken away is if the Legislature gives the people something better,” she said. “It’s not the most fiscally responsible thing we’ve ever done. We could potentially get a kicker in the middle of a recession.”
Knopp said, “I think you (the public) know better what to do with your money than state government. … The people of Oregon had the wisdom to put it off-limits from the Legislature. The Legislature, whether in Democrat or Republican control, will spend nearly every dollar that exists.”
In her closing statement, Kiely recalled enlisting as a Naval officer after the U.S. Embassy was attacked in Iran. “When I see the attacks happening at a federal level on my rights, I am just as shocked as I was when I saw the Embassy attacked. So I am signing up,” seeking “an opportunity to serve again.”
Knopp began: “I want to say I honor and respect your service in the Navy. We may be opponents, but we agree our men and women in uniform need to be respected. That goes for our police as well. All the police organizations have endorsed me, because they know I will stand for them and their safety.”
If re-elected, he vowed to “vote against the $2 billion in taxes that Eileen Kiely’s supporters will propose in the next session.”