Clinton wants two Ore. debates


Hillary Rodham Clinton is challenging her Democratic presidential opponent, Barack Obama, to two debates in Oregon in the run-up to the state's May 20 primary.

Clinton, who won a victory over Obama in Pennsylvania on Tuesday but still trails in the delegate count, said Oregon voters deserve a chance to hear both candidates debate on the "real issues" facing the state.

"I encourage Oregonians to pay attention in the weeks ahead, to see how Sen. Obama and I address the issues that people in Oregon care about," Clinton said in a prepared statement.

Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said a decision will be made soon about whether Obama will conduct Oregon debates with Clinton, who is trailing Obama in fundraising as well as delegates. Shapiro also said Clinton's call for more debates is "an old Washington game."

"There have been 21 Democratic debates and four one-on-one debates with Sen. Clinton, all televised nationally," he said. "Sen. Obama's focus is on meeting directly with Oregon voters about the issues that really matter to them."

Clinton's campaign spokeswoman, Julie Edwards, said there have been no presidential debates in the Pacific Northwest.

She said last week's debate on ABC-TV was the most watched of the presidential campaign.

"There clearly is a desire among voters to hear about the issues," she said.

Former President Bill Clinton is returning to Oregon this week to campaign for his wife, starting with a Friday evening event at North Bend Middle School. On Saturday, he is to attend events at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, McMinnville High School and Oregon City High School, followed by a Saturday evening appearance at Portland's Lincoln High School.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democratic "superdelegate" who's backing Clinton, also planned to make campaign appearances for the former first lady Thursday in Medford, Eugene and Portland, the campaign said.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, on Wednesday issued what she called her "Oregon Compact," a list of priorities she will pursue on Oregon's behalf if she wins the presidency.

Clinton said she would seek to continue a program that provides federal payments to timber-dependent counties; give the state ultimate siting authority over liquefied natural gas terminals; and defend Oregon's assisted suicide law from "federal meddling."

On another issue, she pledged to create sustainable jobs by "thinning choked, unhealthy, second-growth forests" but also to protect the state's remaining old growth forests.

"Under our compact, we will work to permanently protect old growth forests and special places like Mt. Hood, while finally putting thousands of people back to work thinning the choked forests that pose a severe threat to both forests and communities," she said.

Further, she said she would support Oregon's efforts to achieve energy independence; to bring "green jobs" to Oregon and to work to reverse the depletion of wild salmon runs.

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