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Experience counts in 2 state races

The offices of secretary of state and treasurer aren't the most high-profile jobs in Oregon government.

But the people who occupy these roles have important decisions to make, and voters should expect candidates for these offices to have relevant experience and a full understanding of how state government works.

Of the four major candidates involved in the races for secretary of state and treasurer, only two - Democrats Kate Brown and Ben Westlund - have learned the ropes in Salem as legislators.

And while we don't believe legislative service is the only measure of a candidate's potential effectiveness, this experience does give Brown and Westlund the definite edge over their less politically seasoned opponents.

Here are our recommendations in these two races:

Secretary of state: Kate Brown

This race is a fairly easy call when you weigh Brown's years of service in the Legislature - she rose to the rank of Senate majority leader - against the lack of government experience displayed by her Republican opponent Rick Dancer.

Brown promises to act in an impartial way as she fulfills the major duties of secretary of state, which include overseeing elections, performing government audits, serving along with the governor and treasurer on the State Land Board and, perhaps most significantly, taking a lead role in legislative redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census.

We believe that Brown has the ability to shed some of her partisan tendencies and be a secretary of state for all of Oregon - rural, urban, Republican and Democrat.

We admit to liking many of the ideas advanced by her most prominent opponent - Dancer, a Eugene TV journalist. We agree with his support for open primaries and for making the secretary of state's office nonpartisan. But Dancer doesn't have a solitary minute of government experience.

A third candidate, Seth Woolley of the Pacific Green Party, also lacks the prerequisite experience and public exposure that's needed for someone who would be first in line to succeed the governor.

During her 16 years in the Legislature, Brown has worked on many issues that she would encounter as secretary of state, including election law, campaign-finance reporting, redistricting and evaluating the performance of state programs and agencies. Brown has prepared herself well for this office, and if she listens to her moderating instincts, she could be an excellent secretary of state.

State treasurer: Ben Westlund

To understand why this office is important, voters only need to consider the current volatility of financial markets and then remember that Oregon has more than $70 billion invested in those markets - most of it on behalf of public employees and their retirement accounts.

We believe both of the major candidates for treasurer - Westlund and his Republican opponent, Allen Alley - possess adequate financial backgrounds, as well as a deep sense of responsibility for public money.

Alley's strength is definitely on the financial side: He has an impressive business résumé. And although he served for a brief time as Gov. Ted Kulongoski's deputy chief of staff, he lacks the government experience that Westlund, who also started out as a successful businessman, gained during a decade of service in the Legislature.

Michael Marsh of the Constitution Party also is in the race, but it is Westlund who can deliver the whole package needed to be an effective treasurer, including financial savvy and a knowledge of how to get things done in Salem.