The four candidates hoping to replace Peter DeFazio in the U.S. House shared their thoughts on a variety of issues during a candidate forum Thursday.
The virtual forum allowed the candidates to show their differences on a number of issues important to the Fourth Congressional District, Oregon and the country.
Republican Alek Skarlatos and Democrat Val Hoyle are the top candidates in the race, but they will also face a challenge from Mike Beilstein with the Green Party and Libertarian Levi Leatherberry.
During opening statements the four candidates introduced themselves and some of their thoughts on the race.
"The two major parties have a lock on political parties, but they're the same brand of political power," Beilstein said. "The Green Party represents the opposition to the controlled political party. The Green Party represents the power of the Earth and peace."
Hoyle, the current labor commissioner in Oregon, said people in the district know her and can trust her.
"People here know me because I've lived and worked in this community for 22 years," she said. "In this debate, you get to make some very clear choices because there's a vast difference between the candidates. I have always stood up for working people, I have always worked for jobs. You know me, I've delivered time and time again for this district."
Leatherberry said it is time to give a third-party candidate a chance.
"I'm a local farmer, an independent and a libertarian as well," he said. "Both parties, financially, are the same. I'm trying to find an alternative. I'm a farmer, I've seen how my land changes by their policies, how my ability to feed my family changes by their policies. You can't be funded by the problem and create solutions at the same time."
Skarlatos, who served in the National Guard before running for office, said Democrats in charge right now have done little for the district.
"I saw that our district was hurting. We're the poorest congressional district in the state of Oregon," Skarlatos said. "We've had Democrat leadership in our district for 48 years, and it's time for change. I think I can represent this district best because I am the only one incentivized to work with both parties.
"This is a very competitive seat. At the end of the day, when I served in Afghanistan, I didn't ask my squad mates if they were Republican or Democrat, I just concentrated on the job."
The candidates then answered questions from the moderator and the audience listening online.
How would you sum up Peter DeFazio's time in Congress?
"Peter DeFazio is not only a friend but has been a political mentor," Hoyle said. "I've knocked on tens of thousands of doors in this district, and people say I only vote for two Democrats, you and Peter DeFazio."
"Me and Alek grew up under his rule. I never knew Oregon without DeFazio," Leatherberry said. "So some of the problems I grew up with were because of DeFazio. He has a good reputation, but when it comes to action, he's the head of the infrastructure committee.The words are great, but the actions are getting more and more corrupt every year."
"I think he did a great job of bringing money back into the district," Skarlatos said. "That being said, I would have liked to have seen him do more with the Port of Coos Bay and do more to make sure we're not the poorest district in the state."
"I know him very well and consider him a friend," Beilstein said. "Of all the progressive Democrats in Congress, I consider him the best. It took a lot of pressure to get him to support the Medicare for all Bill and he continued to support military action, when I don't think he should have."
Who won the 2020 presidential election? What can be done to bolster American's confidence in elections?
"I think Biden won in 2020 and I don't have a problem saying that," Leatherberry said. "A lot of the corruption happens in the primary, not in the general. If we want to improve it, we can take money out of elections."
"Gas is $5.50 a gallon in Oregon, inflation is 8.8 %, we lost 13 service members in Afghanistan," Skarlatos said. "Unfortunately, Joe Biden is president of the United States and we are suffering because of it."
"Biden won the election," Beilstein said. "One thing the Green Party has supported is rank choice voting. That would ensure whoever wins has majority support."
"I absolutely know that Joe Biden won the election and one of the reason I'm running is I think our democracy is on the verge because of the deniers," Hoyle said. "I think we should have paper ballots. I'd like to see vote by mail expanded."
The Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade and Sen. Lindsey Graham authored a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks nationwide. How do you feel about that bill?
"I would not vote for Lindsey Graham's bill and I would not vote for any bill that bans abortion nationwide," Skarlatos said. "The Supreme Court literally just ruled it's a state issue, and I believe in state's rights."
"I think Graham's bill has no chance on abortion," Beilstein said. "I believe it was virtue signaling. I support the rights of women and all people to get the medical care they need."
"This is a personal issue for me. I'm the only person here who's been pregnant, given birth and lost a pregnancy," Hoyle said. "I am unequivocally pro-choice. Women's healthcare needs don't change because they cross state lines."
"I support abortion. This district supports abortion," Leatherberry said. "Those rights on a state level actually make more sense. The question you have to ask is when Democrats had super majorities they did not codify it?"
Do you support access to affordable healthcare?
"I've supported the Medicare for All approach for more than 20 years," Beilstein said. "I would actually prefer a socialized medicine program as they have in Cuba or Britain. A good way to achieve single payer is to take Medicare and reduce the age requirement gradually."
"I think that Americans should have access to Medicare," Hoyle said. "When people don't have health coverage, it makes our communities sicker."
"Val Hoyle was just talking abut healthcare. She's one of the biggest recipients of Pharma money in this state and this race," Leatherberry said. "You cannot have affordable healthcare when you're on the team increasing costs."
"This is a huge issue and it's been a long time coming," Skarlatos said. "I am in favor of the Affordable Care Act. That being said, I believe there's some fixes that could be had to lower costs. I think we need transparency in medicine."
What roles does the federal government play in handling homelessness in Oregon?
"I think the federal government has walked away from its obligations when working with communities," Hoyle said. "In rural communities and urban communities there are different solutions."
"One of the big ways is to go after price," Leatherberry said. "If you look at housing prices and why they're going up, it's not just supply and demand. There's big actors buying up homes and increasing prices."
"We need to cut out investment banks buying houses and we need to cut out foreign interest buying houses," Skarlatos said. "On homelessness, that 's a different issue with mental health. The federal government has a role, the state government has a role and local government has a role."
"The cost of housing continues to go up much more rapidly than wages," Beilstein said. "To take the finance aspect out of housing would be a good way to start increasing the availability of housing. I think public housing, where it exists, has worked very well."
Do you support the return of the expanded child tax credit?
"At least on face value, I would support it," Skarlatos said. "I don't believe in punishing people for getting married and having children. I think we should encourage it."
"I think something we've observed is one of the best ways to eliminate poverty is to give people money," Beilstein said. "The child tax credit did that and it resulted in a reduction of poverty. So definitely, I would support it."
"When we had the child tax credit, we halved child poverty in this country," Hoyle said. "These are kids that are not going to bed hungry. That is absolutely something we should invest in."
"The Democrat Party is actually really good about this," Leatherberry said. "The data shows that eliminating child poverty is good for society."
What role should US play in Russia-Ukraine conflict?
"I am firmly opposed to sending Americans to fight foreign wars, but what happened was Russia invaded a sovereign country," Hoyle said. "I think as a world leader in coalition with other world leaders, we made the decision to send support to Ukraine and that was the right decision."
"I think helping Ukraine is good because Russia shouldn't have invaded, but I think staying there is putting money in corrupt politician's pockets," Leatherberry said. "I think if we could find a way to support the people and not politicians, it would be a good thing."
"I served in Afghanistan for nine months, and I know what long drawn out conflicts can turn into," Skarlatos said. "I'm concerned about expanding our role in Ukraine. We already probably have boots on the ground in Ukraine, and we are sending them billions of dollars in foreign aide and I don't think we should expand our role any more."
"Since 2014, the United States has supported a war in the break-way region in the Donbas," Beilstein said. "It was not unprovoked. Very soon after the war started, there were negotiations between Ukraine and Russia and the United States and Britain stepped in and said no you can't do this. It is a proxy war for the United States."
Record number of illegal immigrants have been encountered in 2022. What should the United States do about this?
"The current immigration system needs to be reformed," Skarlatos said. "We cannot allow that many people into this country, not only unvetted but unhoused. We need more funding for Border Patrol, and we need to prosecute those coming illegally and encourage them to come legally."
"I think the United States is creating this crisis through the poverty and warfare we have created in Latin America," Beilstein said. "It's not the poor governments of Guatemala or El Salvador, it's the United States that has created this problem."
"My husband immigrated here when he was a teenager and I'm a second-generation American," Hoyle said. "There have been two comprehensive reform bills that had substantial money for border security. Republicans killed both. We need to stop pointing fingers and ensure those people who are refugees are treated with support."
"Our relationship with these countries has a huge impact on people coming here because they can't live at home," Leatherberry said. "There's a black market in America for low-wage workers."
Voters in the Fourth Congressional District will choose their next representative during the general election Nov. 8.
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