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Kitzhaber, Richardson jab during first debate

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: STEFANIE DONAGHUE - State Rep. Dennis Richards makes a point during Friday morning's debate with Gov. John Kitzhaber in Salem. Debate hosted by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association was the first joint appearance between the two candidates of the campaign. Gov. John Kitzhaber and state Rep. Dennis Richardson spent their first joint appearance of the gubernatorial campaign Friday morning sparring on topics ranging from marijuana legalization to the Columbia River Crossing project.

Five members of the press from publications across the state, questioned the two candidates for 90 minutes during the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association meeting in Salem.

From the start, Republican Richardson slammed what he deemed Kitzhaber’s third-term failures, using the CRC project and the Cover Oregon website fiasco as examples. There must be a plan for replacing bridges, and a focus on the outcomes, Richardson said. "It's nice to talk about it, we have to pay for it" Kitzhaber retorted.

Candidates also touched on the legalization of recreational marijuana use, an issue that jumped to the forefront after neighboring Washington state voters approved legalization and began opening shops this month. Kitzhaber says recreational use of marijuana is "inevitable" in Oregon, despite his opposition.

While the candidates disagreed at times, they both came together on the idea of a proposal for an open primary system, in which voters would not be confined to their political parties to vote for candidates.

Incumbent Democrat Kitzhaber is running for an unprecedented fourth term in office and says this is his last campaign. Richardson, who represents Central Point in the House, is running for the governor’s job for the first time.