Why do you think an organization like the League of Minority Voters (LMV) is important?
Organizations like the League of Minority Voters embody the energy and values necessary to drive the sustaining change we need here in Oregon. As someone who grew up amid instability, my campaign is rooted in the desire to give every Oregonian access to an ordinary life — the dignity of an ordinary life. I believe grassroots organizations providing resources for and supporting the interests of underrepresented communities amplify key voices that must be heard within our state.
Racism and bigotry still live on globally. How would you approach dealing with this ongoing issue if elected?
A broad, accessible, and inclusive democracy places progress in reach for Oregonians, but it has an important, disproportionate impact on those communities that have traditionally been shut out from democratic systems. I believe building and deepening relationships with community organizations that encourage voting, active participation in community groups, and public service is a key component of building the leadership pipeline from communities of color and low-income communities. And for me, connecting with these communities is rooted in more than just photo opps and speeches – hearing their stories provides me so much perspective and guidance on what our most critical challenges are, and as Secretary of State, I will be well-positioned to foster civic engagement by leveraging the lens of those priorities to motivate action.
Our criminal justice system disproportionately affects communities of color. What kind of reforms would you advocate for?
As a civil rights attorney and legislator, I have fought to make our systems and institutions more equitable, and I believe our justice system is particularly critical in addressing the discriminatory legacy we continue to face today. Our justice systems continue to disproportionately impact already marginalized communities — black and brown, LGBTQ, and low-income Oregonians especially. To ensure our government and institutions are truly working for Oregonians, we must first ensure we correct damage they may be inflicting. We must address and correct for abuses of power within law enforcement, disparate sentencing, and unequal access to basic rights within the justice system.
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?
I believe a commitment to environmental justice must focus on addressing the historic and ongoing disparities in environmental impact, which place a disproportionate burden on marginalized communities – particularly low-income and communities of color. For instance, we have seen a disproportionately negative impact of urban growth and gentrification on low-income communities and communities of color, resulting in increased rates of displacement and houselessness.
I believe the audits and oversight function of the Secretary of State can and should be used to articulate the state’s values and hold every state agency accountable to operating to those principles. Because environmental justice intersects with so many aspects of life for Oregonians, I believe it is essential to integrate it as a lens as we make government work as equitably as possible. As Secretary of State, I would embrace the state’s Environmental Justice Task Force as a policymaking, communications, and policy execution partner. To me, maintaining the three legs of that stool will help us not just identify what needs to be done, but to take meaningful sustaining action that will protect Oregon’s natural resources for use by all communities throughout the state.
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?
The Secretary of State has the responsibility of ensuring our government protects the rights and dignity of all Oregonians, regardless of immigration status. Our immigrant communities are increasingly targeted by federal and even local actions and are among our most vulnerable. Whether documented or undocumented, they may face physical, legal, social, discriminatory, and other attacks. I am committed to working to make our immigrant communities feel secure, especially in the capacity through which they interact with the government. That includes continuing to partner closely with organizations like PCUN Latinx Farmworkers and Families United as they work relentlessly to deliver legislative solutions that increase access to services, equity, and security for members of the community.
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 support Affirmative Action policies and protections as important levers for addressing racial and socioeconomic inequalities borne of an ongoing system of oppression that has traditionally shut out minority communities when compared to their white counterparts. The harmful legacies of these systems continue through the multi-generational impact of disparities such as wealth, education, and service gaps. Unfortunately, they also continue through existing inequities that continue both implicitly and explicitly today. Affirmative Action is an important tool, but certainly not the only tool, we can and should use to continue efforts to make our systems and institutions more equitable and inclusive.
If elected, what would you advocate for to increase access to education in our communities?
I envision an Oregon education system that operates with an equity lens, effectively supporting students and their parents or guardians from their earliest years in the public education system, focusing especially on communities that facing historic and ongoing disparities within our education system. I would work in increase high-school completion rates will increase, with students exiting the K-12 system with the skills, confidence, and option to continue their education or enter into the workforce. I will work as a close legislative partner to advocate for sufficient education funding that will reduce the burden of higher education student debt; enable community colleges to maintain and quality, up-to-date training equipment; and provide educators at all levels will have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.
Every session, legislators seem to be given a false choice between living wages and competitive benefits for college faculty, like health insurance for part-time instructors and lowering tuition costs. This false choice is the result of Oregon’s broken revenue system, including the fiscally irresponsible kicker. Oregon must raise state revenues to shift the increased burden of funding our higher education systems off students’ backs. When they are able to matriculate, students overwhelmingly face steadily growing debt. And many never have a viable option to seek higher education due to the incredible barrier of high costs. Last session, I sponsored legislation that would have frozen tuition and fees for the current biennium. Our public institutions should be affordable and accessible to all Oregonians.
Similarly, if elected, what would you advocate for to increase access to workforce training in our communities?
Oregon’s extensive community college system is a critical workforce training outlet that students and their communities statewide. I believe we should be doing more to make it accessible, including increasing funding for training equipment, providing affordable healthcare benefits to part-time instructors, and keeping tuition affordable.
I also support the state’s certified Apprenticeship programs because they provide Oregonians and their communities with safe, vetted paths to quality jobs in high-need industries. Those programs were developed in conjunction with industry partners who have the greatest understanding of required skills and effective on-the-ground training.
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?
The current legislature is Oregon’s most racially diverse. While that is a good thing, it is only a starting point. Ultimately, active recruitment, early engagement, and ample opportunities for leadership development will be key to ensuring our state has the pool of future leaders coming from within and representing minority communities. And these leaders should be active throughout levels of government and civic organizations.
As a white, cis-gender, straight, able-bodied woman, I actively work to identify areas where I, my team, and the institutions I represent fall short in serving Oregon’s increasingly diverse population. It is work I am committed to both personally and professionally, and I know it will never be complete. I have made hiring diverse candidates a priority in my Senate office and on my campaign, building teams comprised largely of black, Latinx, and LGBTQ women, men, and non-binary individuals. As critical members of my team, I value the diversity of their lived experiences and respective contributions rooted in incredible talent. As Secretary of State, I will continue to hire with an equity lens, introduce equity audits to public agencies, and structure an Office of Equity within the Secretary of State Department.
What do you think of the following voting initiatives: (1) Same-Day Voters Registration; and (2) National Vote By Mail?
I have a long track record championing expanded ballot access. I support adopting same-day voter registration via oregonvotes.org. Using the site, it takes just minutes to update voter registration, and I believe Oregonians should be able to make this change up to and including election day.
I also am a strong supporter of Oregon’s national vote-by-mail system because I believe it expands ballot access. I sponsored automatic voter registration and prepaid postage legislation, which now places a ballot in the hands of every eligible voter and makes them easier to return than ever. As Trump recklessly attacks vote-by-mail and other states consider adopting it amid the pandemic, we’ve have demonstrated its success as a model for the rest of the country.