Governor candidates discuss race, equality at civil rights forum

SALEM. Ore. – The candidates for Oregon governor both pulled inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr. when talking about civil rights during a forum in Salem Thursday evening.

The forum was hosted by the Oregon League of Minority Voters, the first of its kind established in the United States.  

Gov. Kate Brown and her challenger, Dr. Bud Pierce, engaged in five debates before the November election. The forum was not a debate but both candidates answered questions about their work on promoting equality and what they respect about each other.

They also spoke about how they have worked toward criminal justice reform. Both began their speeches by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Pierce read a portion of King’s “I have a dream” speech. He then explained that he looked up the definition of civil rights before the event, and that Oregon has “done a pretty good job of ending legal discrimination” but the state now has to “change hearts and minds of men and women, and see there’s one race – the human race.”

Brown also began her speech by quoting King.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” she said.

Brown said she went into government to fight for the voiceless and shared a story about her early career, when she said she was once afraid of losing her job because she was in a relationship with a woman.

When asked about what she’s doing in office to further civil rights and equality, she said “We’re applying our equality lens.”

“We must implement the recommendations of the racial profiling task force…and we must work to take a look at our criminal justice policies, specifically criminal penalties that disproportionately impact men of color and women of color,” she said.   

Pierce, answering the same question, said he would make sure his administration is diverse, and report that representation.

“We need the best people, who include minority communities, in government,” he said.  

The candidates, who have led generally civil campaigns in a divisive election season, were then asked what they respect about each other.

Brown cited Pierces work in oncology.

“Through his work he’s touched an incredible number of patients and saved their lives,” she said.

Pierce called Brown “a consummate individual and leader.”

“We get criticized because we don’t hate each other,” he said. “I am proud of the campaign we have waged in Oregon.” 


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