Christine Drazan is the Republican candidate running for governor of Oregon in what is considered to be a three-way race against an unaffiliated candidate and a Democratic candidate. Drazan was raised in rural Oregon and previously served as Republican Leader in the Oregon legislature.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Question: What’s the best way to fix the homelessness crisis in Oregon?
Christine Drazan: The homelessness crisis in Oregon lacks leadership right now. And so what we need is the requirement that all of the good-hearted entities across our entire state and all levels of local jurisdictions … that they have the opportunity to work together. And so I will declare a homelessness state of emergency, which puts my office in the driver’s seat when it comes to responding to the homeless crisis, and that gives me the opportunity to marshal resources and to ensure that people are working together. … We need to clarify what responsibilities are for local governments and ensure that they make real progress on the homeless crisis.
Q: Can you talk about what can be done to improve safety in Oregon’s cities and just in Oregon in general?
CD: We need more law enforcement on our streets. Oregon has only eight troopers per 100,000 Oregonians, and that number is extremely low by any standards.
It also means that when it comes time for state police to be responsive to local communities across our entire state, there just aren’t enough of them to go around. So we definitely need to increase our numbers at a state level, and we need to support local law enforcement as well — so regain the trust of local law enforcement, fully fund state police, and do everything that we can to ensure that if people need to be in prison that they stay in prison.
This whole idea that our governor has released 1,000 dangerous criminals onto our streets has made us less safe. And I will end … her mass release program, and I will work with local, state, and federal entities to ensure that the drug activity, the cartel activity, particularly in southern Oregon, that we nip that in the bud.
People in the southern part of our state are facing very, very real dangers down there, whether it’s human trafficking, drug trafficking — all of it, all of it is more dangerous in their local communities than they’ve ever seen before. And it’s going to take collaboration at all levels. But I will make that a priority…
Q: Education — how can that be improved in the state? What can be done to ensure these lockdowns and restrictions that happened during COVID don’t happen again? How do you see education needing improvement?
CD: As a mom of three, I saw firsthand the impacts of the shutdowns on my kids and their friends and our neighbors. It was unacceptable to put our kids last for the impacts of COVID. Those shutdowns hurt their academic progress and it certainly impacted their social and emotional wellbeing.
And so I will not, I will not, as governor, have lockdowns or mandate lockdowns in response to any COVID-related issues moving forward.
It was the wrong decision for our kids and particularly in Oregon, our governor moved teachers to the head of the line and got them vaccines before some of our most at-risk populations, but then refused to hold them accountable to reopen our schools and have in-person learning again to support our students. That was the wrong decision. And so I respect Oregonians. I’ll lead with facts and not fear when it comes to any public health crisis. And I will not use a public health crisis to manipulate Oregonians and spread fear. Instead, I’m going to share information, I’m going to respect Oregonians, I’m going to make recommendations, and I’m going to ensure that public health is shared responsibility, that people take responsibility for their own personal health, and that I provide the needed resources to ensure that they can do that.
When it comes to education, we’ve got to restore graduation requirements. It is abandoning our own kids — the next generation of kids — to say, ‘Hey, Oregon hasn’t done a very good job of helping kids reach these standards at third, fifth, and eighth grade that are expected of us. Let’s just roll back our requirements. Let’s just do less testing.’ That doesn’t help our kids. We need to ensure that if we have students who are struggling, that we provide the interventions and supports necessary to bring them up to grade level. … As the superintendent of public instruction, the governor has the opportunity to ensure that we don’t have politics in the classroom and that we can focus again on student outcomes and student achievement.
We need parents engaged. We need more choice. We need more opportunities for parents to choose the best learning environment for their kids. And we need to maintain high standards in the classroom. This is one of the most critical issues that I will tackle as governor.
Q: What do you see as the best thing to do to fix [the housing crisis] problem?
CD: We need to ensure that Oregon has less regulation that is impacting their ability to build houses. Right now, we have a very burdensome regulatory environment and it affects all aspects of business. But our housing shortages are at a crisis level. And so to get serious about this, we need to protect existing programs like the mortgage interest deduction, first time home buyer programs. We need to ensure that property taxes don’t grow out of control. And we also have got to clean up our regulatory environment.
…Just a few years ago, we were competitive and we were drawing housing projects and developments in our downtown core and our suburban areas because it could pencil financially for businesses to put those housing units in place. Right now, we’re not even competitive with Seattle, and those projects are going elsewhere.
We want housing. We need more housing. It needs to be housing that folks can afford to live in. And that’s not going to happen unless we reduce regulations and recognize that in some cases, we are not competitive and we need to provide incentives to get these units built.
Q: What do you see as the most important kind of climate goals for Oregon? And also, how do you see the Oregon government mitigating impacts of drought while also working alongside environmental groups?
CD: Oregon has an ethic of conservation. It’s just built into our DNA, as Oregonians, we love living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Oregon’s commitment to clean air and water and sound use of our lands has really marked our state for generations.
So this isn’t new territory for us. As Oregonians, we work with our farmers, we work with our producers, we work with our folks that are engaged in our working land to ensure that we protect and sustain the environment that we live in here.
We have had in place for quite a long time clean fuel standards that have contributed to our efforts to lower emissions for our state. We certainly have an ongoing commitment to hydropower through the dams that are here in the Pacific Northwest that have — frankly, access to affordable, reliable, consistent power through hydropower has been an important part for how we’ve built our state and our economy through the years. And we have to continue to protect and preserve that.
We need to enter into an era of all options need to be on the table. We can’t abandon natural gas. We need to continue to allow innovation to develop renewable natural gas and for that to be something that is more prevalent in the marketplace.
But certainly we have got to continue to protect access to the hydropower that flows over the dams and helps ensure that we have green energy already here in the state of Oregon. We also have working lands that are in fact contributors to sequestering carbon emissions. And that’s not something we talk about very often, but that is the job of trees. And Oregon has beautiful forests and a strong agricultural industry, strong nursery industry. We grow things here, and that helps in this process. And we need to start to also talk about the value add and the benefits of that and do more to innovate on that side of the equation.
Q: The drug addiction crisis in Oregon — what do you see as something that can be done to address that?
CD: We have in Oregon this [ballot measure 110] that was passed recently … and it legalized possession of hard drugs. That was one of the worst things that we could do for the addiction crisis that we’re facing in our state because it means that … that point of opportunity, to get into treatment, to get into a treatment court, or diversion program is gone.
The citation [law enforcement issues] to people if they’re in possession of drugs is simply a recommendation that they pick up the phone and call someone and get into treatment. If they don’t, they’re supposed to pay a fine of $100, which there’s no enforcement of that fine and these are folks that can’t and don’t pay that anyway. What we found, though, is they’re also not picking up the phone to get into, to get services that are needed to get into long-term recovery. So we’re going to address this issue, particularly in Oregon, we need to take an approach to drug use that is more compassionate than what we’ve been doing recently.
We need to repeal our own locally-adopted Ballot Measure 110, send that back to voters, make the case that it has been a failed program. We’ve seen [a] dramatic increase in overdoses and drug use across our state and we need to commit to invest, to continue to invest in mental health and behavioral health support. So if we’re going to tackle this crisis, it needs to be something that people have the opportunity to get into treatment. The best way for that to happen is to reverse the legalization and possession of hard drugs in our state.
Q: What can be done at the government level or just in general to help working mothers and families who need childcare in the state. What would you do to address that or what steps would you kind of support?
CD: When we’re talking about childcare in our state, the legislature has recently made the decision, from my perspective, to make it harder for childcare providers to get into the business. They’ve added layers and layers and layers of regulatory responsibilities and, frankly, bureaucracy for child care providers, and they’ve changed their standards for what is required to be a child care provider where now you have to go and you have to get additional education requirements. Now, I see the value of that for the programs that are federally subsidized or state-supported. But when we’re talking about increasing access in your own neighborhood, in your own community, having somebody down the street from you that has [a] childcare facility in her home that brings in three to five kiddos after school or before school, what you want is to allow for more of that and not more bureaucratic hurdles that might prevent that from happening.
And so the childcare options that need to be available across Oregon, it needs to be the full spectrum of options. And we need to do everything that we can to lower barriers for people being able to support and help each other and to continue to have sort of the approach to childcare that assumes that you can have kind of a small approach to it, too. It doesn’t all have to be sort of the chain childcare facilities to meet that need in Oregon.
We’ve also got to recognize that parents want to raise their own kids. And for parents that want to work and need to work, they need access to childcare. But there are many parents out there that want to be engaged in raising their own children, and we also need to recognize that and respect that decision.