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Secretary of State: Dennis Richardson (Republican)


When Dennis Richardson lost his bid to unseat Gov. John Kitzhaber two years ago, many people (including Richardson) figured his political career was over.

But as the pre-election murmurs about influence-peddling by the Democratic governor turned to a full-fledged post-election scandal and the troubled Cover Oregon health care exchange melted down into a financial disaster, Richardson — who’d warned about both during the campaign — looked prescient.

And when Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015, just five weeks after being sworn in, Secretary of State Kate Brown became governor, leaving an attractive vacancy in her former office.

Richardson decided to take another shot at statewide office and is better suited for this one. While some news organizations, in endorsing Richardson, have focused on what they don’t like about his opponent, we think the former Republican lawmaker has the right temperament and skills for a job that probably should be nonpartisan.

Since the secretary of state oversees elections and state audits, it’s important that whoever holds the office is trusted by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Richardson’s 12-year tenure in the statehouse established him as a right-of-center Republican, in an increasingly left-leaning state. So, it’s all the more impressive that the 67-year-old Vietnam veteran from Jackson County won praise for his role co-chairing the joint budget-writing committee in 2011. And this fall, the retired trial lawyer snagged the endorsement of two elected Democrats: state Sen. Betsy Johnson and state Rep. Brad Witt.

A Mormon who’s raised eight daughters, Richardson is not running away from his well-known conservative social views. Instead, he correctly notes that those views should be irrelevant to the duties of secretary of state.

Rather, his work on the budget committee gives him a broad understanding of the agencies he would be asked to audit, and his residence in Southern Oregon would bring a non-Portland-area perspective to the State Land Board, which is overseen by the governor, treasurer and secretary of state.

Democrat Brad Avakian, by contrast, is viewed as one the most partisan and cravenly ambitious politicians in the state — a huge liability for someone seeking this particular job.

Avakian, 55, is the state labor commissioner and a notorious job-shopper. After winning a state House seat from Beaverton in 2002, he moved up to the Senate in 2006. He jumped in and out of the 2008 secretary of state race and made a failed bid for Congress three years later, getting trounced in the Democratic primary by Suzanne Bonamici.

Given his opportunistic attitude, it’s not surprising that Avakian has put forth an agenda that would make more sense for someone running for governor or attorney general. He, like Richardson, is a former trial lawyer. But unlike his opponent, he sees no boundaries on the job description, saying he wants the secretary of state to investigate private contractors, oversee civics lessons in public schools, build solar power farms in Eastern Oregon, protect abortion rights, and ensure equal pay for equal work.

Those don’t have much to do with the job he’s seeking but have earned him a lot of special-interest endorsements and campaign contributions.

Richardson’s temperament and track record make him the far superior choice for secretary of state.

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