Tuesday's KOIN debate will feature questioning by youth ages 12 to 19, picked to participate from communities throughout the state.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Gubernatorial candidates Independent Patrick Starnes, Democratic incumbent Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler will be in the spotlight Tuesday night at the first major candidates' debate.

In what appears to be a tightening race for Oregon governor, three hopefuls will face off at Roosevelt High School for the first time in the 2018 election cycle.

The debate will feature Democrat Kate Brown, the incumbent, and challengers Republican Knute Buehler and Patrick Starnes, an independent. The race appears to be the closest for the office since at least 2010, when John Kitzhaber narrowly defeated former Trail Blazer Chris Dudley. Recent polls show Brown and Buehler in a dead-heat.

The televised debate will feature questioning by youth ages 12 to 19, picked to participate from communities throughout the state, including Crook County High School senior Olivia Cooper.

The hour-long debate will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 and be moderated by KOIN 6 anchor Jeff Gianola and Portland Tribune education reporter Shasta Kearns Moore.

The debate will be aired live on KOIN and CSPAN, and live streamed on the Portland Tribune website. Other debates will follow Thursday, Oct. 4, in Medford and Oct. 9 in Portland. Ballots go into the mail later this month for the Nov. 6 election.

John Schrag, Pamplin Media Group executive editor, one of the partners sponsoring the debate, said organizers opted to skip opening statements so there would be more time for each of the 15 youths to ask a question. However, if the candidates use their answer time to attack each other, moderators would provide an opportunity for rebuttal.

Schrag said the candidates might be less likely to dismiss questions from students the way politicians sometimes do with journalists. "These kids have spent two weeks preparing their questions, so if they are going to blow them off, I think that's pretty bad optics," Schrag said.

Some questions will be fielded by all three candidates, Schrag said. Other questions, such as ones that pertain to legislative voting records, will only go to Brown and Buehler. Starnes, a cabinetmaker, has served on local school boards.

Debate for Oregon's Future

Date: 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2

Location: Roosevelt High School, Portland

Broadcast live: KOIN TV,, KDRV TV, KBNZ and KPAM radio

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