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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Hot Button Issues Divide Oregon Governor Candidates At Debate

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Incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber and Republican challenger Dennis Richardson faced-off in the resort town of Sunriver.

The two leading candidates for Oregon governor took opposite positions on some hot-button issues during a debate Friday.

On the minimum wage, Kitzhaber said he supports an immediate increase. Richardson supports the state's current system of tying the wage to inflation.

On requiring employers to offer paid sick leave: Kitzhaber is for it, Richardson's against.

That exchange got testy when Richardson needled Kitzhaber about a recent news report that suggested the governor pays women in his office less than men. Kitzhaber called Richardson's interest in the issue entirely political.

"It just seems to me a little cynical that you would discover equity for women after an 11-year history in the legislature where very few of your votes actually suggest you believe in that,” the governor said.

Richardson responded, ”There you go again,” to which Kitzhaber quipped, "Thank you, Ronald.”

Kitzhaber has maintained a consistent lead over Richardson this year in fundraising and in the polls. Four minor-party candidates are on the ballot as well.

The debate was sponsored by the Oregon Association of Broadcasters. Kitzhaber and Richardson will debate again Saturday at a conference held by the League of Oregon Cities in Eugene.