WATCH: Portland voters sound off on abortion and homelessness

Voters in Portland, Oregon, said concerns about abortion and homelessness are driving their votes in key races this fall — including in a gubernatorial race that has the potential to put a Republican in charge of the state for the first time in 40 years.

“What’s going on is terrible, and so, I’m just looking for a change,” a voter named Walker told the Washington Examiner in Portland.

“Probably homelessness and abortion rights,” Ross Robbins, another Portland voter, said when asked what issues are driving his vote.

HOW CRIME AND HOMELESSNESS COULD FLIP OREGON RED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DECADES

Robbins said he believed crime and homelessness had risen in importance to many voters and would both play a role in swinging the election.

“Unfortunately, I do think it is” a major factor, Robbins said. “I feel like there’s a chance it’s going to drive their votes the wrong way.”

Democratic candidate Tina Kotek has worked to distance herself from Gov. Kate Brown, the Democratic incumbent whose inability to curb crime and past adherence to strict pandemic policies has made her one of the country’s most unpopular governors.

Kotek has promised to work harder to alleviate the state’s homelessness crisis, which is particularly acute in Portland. She has also featured her pro-abortion rights credentials heavily on the campaign trail.

“I’d say obviously the abortion rights were a very big thing that came up,” said Payton Villescas.

“Probably abortion, the environment, the economy,” said a voter named Lindsey when asked about her top concerns this cycle.

But homelessness was a prominent theme throughout conversations with Portland voters, in part because the problem is so visible.

Clusters of tents line the streets of downtown Portland, harming businesses and contributing to a sense of helplessness among some local entrepreneurs and residents.

Homelessness is a top issue driving voters to the polls in Portland, Oregon

Amy DeLaura/Washington Examiner

Jay Snell, another Portland voter, said homelessness is his top concern and blamed local leaders for making the problem worse.

“We open all these beds and then tell them they can’t get in because they’re using,” Snell said, referring to shelters that don’t allow homeless drug addicts to enter. “Well, that’s part of the reason they’re on the street.”

“We’re throwing money at the wall and seeing if it sticks,” Snell added. “Somebody’s getting rich, but it sure isn’t helping the homeless.”

A poll conducted earlier this month found that 94% of Portland-area voters described homelessness as a “very big problem.” Homelessness was the top concern of voters in Oregon’s largest city, eclipsing abortion rights.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, unveiled a plan to tackle homelessness last week that includes a new ban on camping in the city.

That may not be enough to stop voters from registering their discontent at the ballot box, however.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan holds a slight edge in the data website ‘s ‘s average of pollsaverage of polls, and in no small part due to her tough talk on crime and homelessness.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

A number of voters who spoke with the Washington Examiner said they still expected Kotek to win because of the Democratic tilt of their state.

But the presence of a popular independent candidate, Betsy Johnson, could ultimately pull enough voters away from Kotek to clear a path to victory for Drazan.

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