Why do you think an organization like the League of Minority Voters (LMV) is important?
Diverse populations don’t run on autopilot. When we’re surrounded by people who are just like us, we’re not challenged to stop and think about our words, thoughts or decisions. The presence of diversity creates awkwardness and it creates inconvenient truths. The need to diffuse this tension forces us into making better decisions for everybody.
Racism and bigotry still live on globally. How would you approach dealing with this ongoing issue if elected?
First, I would recruit culturally and ethnically diverse managers and staff. Racial prejudice can be reduced if the staff becomes diverse and raises the awareness of each other, but racism is reduced when power is shared by the leadership.
In order to move beyond racial prejudice and ensure inclusiveness, my office will reflect ALL of the communities and constituencies of Oregon.
I have always made it my M.O to talk to people of color or underserved communities in the legislature and ask them about the barriers and attitudes they face at work.
Our criminal justice system disproportionately affects communities of color. What kind of reforms would you advocate for?
The reforms I actually did support, voted for and the reforms that are now Oregon law, were encompassed in SB 1048 that the legislature passed in 2019. It would require prosecutors to request a hearing to determine whether juveniles facing Measure 11 charges should be moved to adult court. Currently juveniles accused of those crimes automatically go to adult court. This puts human understanding back in our judicial/corrections system. The bill also gives juveniles convicted of Measure 11 crimes the opportunity for a so-called “second look” hearing half-way through their sentences. According to the bill, a judge would consider allowing young offenders to serve the rest of their sentences under community-based supervision instead of prison.
Similarly, environmental injustice impacts low-income communities and communities of color. What are some examples you have come across in Oregon? How would you address these negative impacts?
Environmental injustice can be defined as the disproportionate exposure of communities of color and the poor to pollution and other environmental problems.
One example in Oregon is how low-income neighborhoods are often located in proximity to toxins and are exposed to the dangerous health hazards.
There is evidence that environmental injustice is caused by discriminatory siting, misguided regulatory policy, unequal regulation enforcement, and unequal political power. I would use my office to offset these fundamental problems, by incorporating this acknowledgement in Land Board decisions and in audits by the Audits Division.
What are you already doing and what will you do for undocumented immigrants and families who are torn apart in our community/nation if you are elected?
What I have done is advocated and voted for the Tuition Equity Act that is now Oregon law. It provides that undocumented students are exempt from nonresident tuition and fees—in other words, they would pay the same rates as Oregon residents.
I also authored the Oregon Promise, which provides free community college tuition to Oregon high school students. Unlike other “promise” programs, in Oregon, this program is extended to undocumented students.
Civil Rights are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. However, access to these rights are not always equitable. What do you think of Affirmative Action policies and protections? If you’re a supporter, please explain why.
I am a supporter because students of color continue to be underrepresented on college campuses. Banning affirmative action only worsens this problem. Prioritizing diversity benefits students of all races. Diversity on college campuses enhances the educational experiences of students of all backgrounds. Research suggests that racially integrated classrooms can reduce students’ racial bias, and intellectual self-confidence. These benefits may translate to better economic outcomes and prepare students to work in a diverse global economy. Affirmative action can level the playing field by ensuring all students—regardless of wealth, privilege, or background—have a chance to benefit from the advantages colleges provide. As a result, low-income students and students of color increase their chances of emerging from poverty and stepping into the middle class.
If elected, what would you advocate for to increase access to education in our communities?
I will continue to advocate for full funding of the Oregon Promise, which provides free community college to Oregon High School graduates. Currently, about 10,000 students per year have enrolled in this program – one third of them are the first in their families to attend college. This has been a game-changer in Oregon. Opportunities that didn’t exist for thousands of families are now available. No college debt, no obligation. I would continue to advocate for more funding for Oregon’s Opportunity Grant. This programs helps pay the costs of college, based on need. It is hopelessly underfunded. But it is one of the places where funding today will pay huge dividends tomorrow.
Similarly, if elected, what would you advocate for to increase access to workforce training in our communities?
I’ve always supported the full funding of BM 98, the voter-passed measure designed to help with career technical education. But it was never really funded until we passed the Student Success Act in 2019. I was one of the authors of that law, which taxed large corporations to fund schools. It was important to me that Career Technical Education and BM 98 be major components of that law.
I sponsored the Oregon Promise, which provides free community college to our high school graduates.
I will continue to dedicate myself to better access to workforce training. And I am proud of my record on this issue.
LMV would like to see an increase of minority leaders engaged in our political processes. How would you encourage Leadership Development and Civic Engagement in our communities?
I would do what I have been doing as a state senator: convening groups of diverse young people to introduce bills in the legislature, mentoring young people and providing them with internships at the Capitol. Also, I would expand the “Civics Toolkit” in the Secretary of State’s office to not only inform on how elections work – but also on how they have historically discriminated against people of color.
In 2001, I was one of the sponsors with Sen. Margaret Carter on the law that requires public universities to interview people of color for coaching jobs. It has been on the books for ten years and it is working!
What do you think of the following voting initiatives: (1) Same-Day Voters Registration; and (2) National Vote by Mail?
I was the first candidate in this race to propose and support changing to Same-Day Registration. This will help working people who often don’t start paying attention until the weeks before an election. It will be one of my priorities as Secretary of State.
Oregon was the pioneer in Vote-by-Mail, becoming the first state to adopt it. I will help lead the charge for a national Vote-by-Mail system. I have been an outspoken supporter for national Vote by Mail for a long time. I plan to become Oregon’s top ambassador for Vote by Mail.