By Anna Staver
The race to replace retiring Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, heated up Thursday night when the two candidates sparred in their first debate.
Kathy Goss, a Republican, is facing Paul Evans, a Democrat, for the open seat in House District 20, which encompasses West Salem, Independence and Monmouth.
The two spent more than an hour at the Salem Public Library answering questions and taking subtle jabs at their opposition.
When asked whether they would support using outsourcing and other means to reduce the number of employees at the Department of Transportation, Goss said she would go a step farther.
"I would reduce the amount of bicycle lanes and the amount of trails we are taking care of," Goss said. "The state of Oregon is still in a recession. We don't need the fringe things right now, and we don't need the public employees to do them."
Evans responded by raising the specter of Cover Oregon as an example of the pitfalls of outsourcing.
The two also differed in their stances on the statewide ballot measures before Oregonians this November.
Goss opposed Measure 88, which would give Driver ID cards to people who lack legal proof of residency in the U.S. while Evans supports keeping the law even though he called an imperfect, short-term fix to a national problem.
Goss opposed Measure 91, which would legalize recreational marijuana person 21 or older while Evans took a more nuanced approach. The former Monmouth mayor said he thinks revenue generated from legal sales could help the state, but he's not a fan of recreational use.
Republicans need to take five Democratic seats to gain control of the Oregon House, but Democrats hope to raise that bar to six by capturing the seat in House District 20.
Evans benefits from a slight Democratic registration edge, but Berger repeatedly won the seat with overwhelming support.
The candidates found common ground on the importance of preserving the right to conceal carry permits and finding a way to increase logging in Oregon forests.
They also discussed tweaking Oregon's vote-by-mail system.
Evans didn't want to replace the state's electoral process, but he would support increasing penalties for voter fraud and hiring additional staff to oversee the signature verification process.
"Frankly, vote by mail has some problems," Goss said. "I personally would like to go back to the polls."
If you missed the chance to see Democrat Paul Evans and Republican Kathy Goss speak Thursday night, the two plan to hold another debate at the Scottish Rite Center (4090 Commercial Street SE) at 6 p.m. Sept. 12, and again at the Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library (585 Liberty Street SE) at 6 p.m. Sept. 17.