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State treasurer barred from second re-election bid

Attorney general: 2016 race would put Wheeler past elected limit.


State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is ineligible to seek re-election in 2016 because it would put him past the constitutional limit of eight elected years in a 12-year cycle.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum released an opinion Monday in response to a request from Secretary of State Kate Brown. Wheeler says he will not challenge that opinion, which is binding on state agencies but could be taken to the courts.

The Oregon Constitution, in a limit dating back to statehood, bars the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer from serving eight years in any 12-year period. The eight years, however, apply only to elected service.

Although three recent secretaries of state have served more than eight years, Wheeler’s case differs because of the circumstances of his appointment.

Wheeler was chief executive of Multnomah County when Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed him on March 9, 2010, to succeed Ben Westlund. Westlund died of cancer just 14 months into a four-year term he was elected to in 2008.

Wheeler was elected in November 2010 to complete the final two years of Westlund’s term, then was elected to a full four-year term in November 2012.

Rosenblum says the 10 months Wheeler was treasurer by appointment in 2010 do not count against the constitutional term limit — but the two years he was treasurer by election do count against the limit.

If Wheeler were to run in 2016, Rosenblum says, he would exceed the eight-year limit in the middle of the next four-year term – and so he would not be eligible to run.

Rosenblum said under a constitutional provision and a 1936 attorney general’s opinion, an appointee’s service before an election is excluded from calculations under the limit.

Bill Bradbury served about 14 months of the unexpired second term of Phil Keisling, who resigned, before winning two terms of his own as secretary of state in 2000 and 2004.

Keisling himself completed the two years of the unexpired second term of Barbara Roberts, who was elected governor in 1990, before winning two terms of his own as secretary of state in 1992 and 1996.

Clay Myers served about two years of the unexpired term of Tom McCall, who was elected governor, before winning two terms of his own as secretary of state in 1968 and 1972. McCall appointed Myers, who was his assistant secretary of state, upon his election as governor in 1966.

Unlike the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says someone can be elected president only twice, the Oregon limit is not a lifetime limit.

Gov. John Kitzhaber sat out eight years, after his initial tenure from 1995 to 2003, before he returned for a third term in 2010. He is seeking a fourth nonconsecutive term Nov. 4.

McCall attempted a third-term comeback for governor in 1978, four years after his tenure from 1967 to 1975, but lost in the Republican primary.

Thomas B. Kay was state treasurer from 1911 to 1919, then returned to that office in 1925. He died April 29, 1931, with slightly less than two years remaining in his fourth term. He was the son of the Salem woolen-mill owner whose property is a museum today.

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Adds Phil Keisling to appointees who completed terms before winning on their own as secretary of state.