PORTLAND, Ore. — Voters got their first look at Oregon's gubernatorial candidates in a debate format Tuesday night, with a twist: Most people asking the questions weren’t old enough to vote. They were students from all over the state, who addressed the candidates on stage at Roosevelt High School.
Kate Brown, Knute Buehler to face off at KGW in televised debate on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Watch at 7 p.m. on KGW-TV, KGW's Facebook and YouTube pages or KGW.com or the KGW News app. Learn more here.
One of those students was 15-year-old Kai Schrosk from Colton High School. Schrosk asked what the candidates would do to help prevent teen suicide and improve the overall mental health among high-risk groups.
In response, Rep. Knute Buehler talked about the suicide prevention hotline, Lines for Life.
“Help lines that people can call— youth can call— and talk with peers,” offered Buehler, as an example of help. “Peers that understand the challenges of being a youth.”
Gov. Kate Brown touched on the need for state-wide comprehensive school-based health programs.
“I think it's absolutely key that we have access to school nurses in every single one of our schools,” Brown said.
After the debate, Schrosk weighed in on the candidates’ responses.
“Honestly, I was a bit disappointed, Schrosk said. “They seemed to want to talk a lot of about what they did, and not necessarily what they were going to do.”
Fifteen-year-old Rose Lawrence from Beaverton’s School of Science and Technology, asked what the candidates would do to make Oregon schools a safe place for LGBTQ youth. After the candidates’ first round of answers, Lawrence called them out for not answering her question.
“I think that children are more blunt and they will tell it like it is,” said Lawrence, after the debate.
The candidates were given second and third chances to address Lawrence’s question.
“I think we really need to understand the depth of the problem and having a way for these incidents to be reported and reported directly to the governor’s office,” Buehler said.
Brown replied, “We've passed legislation to prevent bullying in our schools… and my policy is specifically geared toward making sure our LGBTQ students are safe.”
Lawrence said it was important to have students play such an important role in Tuesday’s debate.
“[You have to] speak your mind, don't worry if it's polite,” Lawrence said. “What matters is if you expose if they really are interested in the issue or not and what they’re going to do.”