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Richardson returns with run for secretary of state

Republican hopeful says social issue views irrelevant

Dennis Richardson is returning to state politics, this time as a Republican candidate for secretary of state.

Richardson, a state representative from Central Point in Southern Oregon for 12 years, was the losing GOP nominee against Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber last year. But Kitzhaber resigned just 38 days into his fourth term amid influence-peddling allegations that first surfaced during the 2014 campaign.

In a six-way race, Kitzhaber won 49.9 percent of the votes cast, while Richardson won 44.1 percent.

For this campaign, Richardson sought in advance to blunt criticism that Kitzhaber and Democrats aimed at him last year based on his conservative views on social issues such as abortion rights and same-sex relationships.

“You know, in this position, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a social conservative or social liberal,” Richardson says in his statement. “The secretary of state has limited authority, largely tied to budget and performance audits, managing the public records, ensuring fair elections, and rolling out the welcome wagon for businesses looking to settle in Oregon.”

The secretary of state also is next in line of succession to be governor in Oregon, one of a handful of states without a lieutenant governor. Kate Brown automatically succeeded Kitzhaber upon his resignation Feb. 18.

Richardson, 66, is a lawyer and Army veteran of the Vietnam War. He was in the House from 2003 to 2015, and was House Republican co-chairman of the Legislature’s joint budget committee when the House was evenly split between the parties in 2011 and 2012.

The Democratic incumbent Secretary of State is Jeanne Atkins, who said upon her appointment by Brown earlier this year that she would not seek a full term.

Richardson has at least one declared opponent in the May 17 primary, Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken of Springfield.

Three Democrats have announced: Brad Avakian of Beaverton, who also ran in 2008 before his appointment as state labor commissioner; Richard Devlin of Tualatin, a state senator and Senate co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, and Val Hoyle of Eugene, a state representative and former House majority leader.

The most recent Republican to be secretary of state was Norma Paulus, who left that office in 1985 after two terms. Barbara Roberts in 1984 became the first Democrat in 110 years to win the office; all her successors have been Democrats.

Of nine secretaries of state going back six decades to Mark Hatfield, four have become governor and three more made losing bids for governor.

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