Of the four candidates seeking the job of looking after the state's $68 billion investment portfolio, only two attended the forum - incumbent Democrat Ted Wheeler and challenger Walt Brown from the Progressive Party.
Wheeler was appointed to the post six months ago following the death of fellow Democrat Ben Westlund.
He said the treasurer must provide financial leadership for the state, laying the foundation for economic growth and helping the state "get its financial house in order" as legislators brace for another round of budget cuts.
Wheeler, who came to office amid a scandal about the luxurious travel habits of state investment officers under previous treasurers, said he took swift action to tackle the problem - reforming controls and requesting an outside audit of the agency.
"I ended first-class travel," he said. "I ended golf."
Wheeler said treasurers' offices across the country have asked for the results of the reforms implemented in Oregon.
Brown said Oregon has a long history of economic woes that predates any of the state's incumbent officeholders.
"In the last 30 years," he said, "we have had above-average unemployment for 25 of them."
Brown said Oregon could learn from other states, such as North Dakota, which has the only state-run bank in the U.S.
Brown noted North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation - just 4 percent in March 2010 compared to the average 9.1 percent.
He said the treasurer's office should put more of the state's $68 billion investments to work in Oregon rather than further afield.
"I don't want to sound like a raging nationalist," he said, "but we can't build Oregon by investing in New Jersey and China."
Republican candidate Chris Telfer and Constitution Party candidate Michael Marsh are also on the ballot for the position.