State Sen. Shemia Fagan enters race for Oregon secretary of state

SAM STITES/ OREGON CAPITAL BUREAU - State Sen. Shemia Fagan

Democrats swept the three statewide offices up for election Tuesday in Oregon.

With almost 90% of 2.4 million ballots cast statewide that were tallied at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday:

• Secretary of state: Democratic state Sen. Shemia Fagan of Portland led with 51.2%, Republican state Sen. Kim Thatcher of Keizer, 43%.

• State treasurer: Democratic incumbent Tobias Read of Beaverton led with 52.6%, Republican Jeff Gudman of Lake Oswego, 40.8%.

• Attorney general: Democratic incumbent Ellen Rosenblum of Portland led with 56.8%, Republican Michael Cross of Turner, 40.7%.

Secretary of state

Fagan, 39, is a lawyer who served two terms in the Oregon House, left in 2016, then returned to politics two years later, when she unseated Democrat Rod Monroe in the District 24 seat in the Oregon Senate. Her seat will be filled by appointment for the two years remaining in the term.

Thatcher, 56, is a small-business owner who unseated a Republican incumbent in the Oregon House in 2004 and won an open seat in the Oregon Senate in 2014. Her District 13 seat stretches over Marion, Yamhill, Washington and Clackamas counties. She is in midterm and will keep her seat.

Also on the ballot were Kyle Markley of Hillsboro, Libertarian Party; and Nathalie Paravicini of Portland, Pacific Green and Progressive parties.

"To be able to have your trust to be the next secretary of state is an incredible honor," Fagan said during a livestreamed event by the Democratic Party of Oregon. She spoke about her upbringing by a single father in Wasco County while her mother battled addiction and homelessness in Portland.

The secretary of state is the chief elections officer — although elections are conducted by Oregon's 36 counties — overseer of audits and custodian of records. The office is next in line of succession to the governor.

Fagan wrestled back for Democrats the secretary of state's office, which Dennis Richardson won four years ago to become the first Republican victor statewide since 2002 and the first Republican to hold that office in 32 years.

Richardson died of cancer in February 2019. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, herself a former secretary of state, appointed former legislator Bev Clarno of Redmond to the vacancy. Clarno did not seek a full term.

Both Fagan and Thatcher defended Oregon's all-mail balloting, which dates back to 2000 for statewide elections, against attacks by President Donald Trump.

"This is now the moment when we get to lead the nation and help our fellow Americans take a collective breath and wait — because we know how to do that in Oregon," Fagan said. "It matters that we get the results right."

Fagan, boosted by contributions from public employees unions after former House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson dropped out before the filing deadline, edged two Democratic opponents in the May 19 primary. State Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton was a target of the unions for his 2019 vote for changes in the public-pension system; Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebonne was the 2018 nominee for the 2nd District congressional seat.

Thatcher easily won the Republican nomination against someone who ran for governor as a Democrat in 2016 and as a Republican in 2018.

Fagan raised $2.8 million, about half of it during her primary campaign, compared with just under $1 million by Thatcher.

State treasurer

This year's fall election was a rematch of sorts between Read and Gudman.

Read, 45, formerly worked for Nike and was in the Oregon House for five terms until his election as treasurer four years ago.

Gudman, 66, is a former two-term Lake Oswego city councilor and a financial analyst and investor.

Also on the ballot were Chris Henry of Portland, nominee of the Independent, Pacific Green and Progressive parties; and Michael Marsh of Salem, Constitution Party.

"I look forward to working with him on some of the many areas where we agree," Read said of Gudman during the same livestreamed event. "He made me a better candidate and a better treasurer."

Gudman came close to winning four years ago, but Independent Party nominee Chris Telfer — a certified public accountant and a former Republican state senator from Bend — won 9.5% of the votes cast. Telfer endorsed Gudman this time.

No incumbent treasurer has lost since 1964, when Republican Howard Belton was defeated by Democrat Bob Straub, who is widely recognized as the person who transformed the office into what it is today. Straub was elected governor in 1974, after two previous attempts while still treasurer.

The office manages about $100 billion in investments, the largest of which is the public-pension fund, and oversees banking functions and debt issuance for state government. It also oversees programs for college and retirement savings.

"We have to continue planning for Oregon's future and put ourselves on a strong financial footing to be ready for whatever challenges come next," Read said.

"As treasurer, that means continuing to help Oregonians have a chance of getting ahead — helping people plan for a secure retirement, enabling young parents to open their child's first college savings account, and investing in infrastructure that makes our economy go."

As the incumbent this time, Read had a 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over Gudman. Read had raised under $900,000, Gudman $264,000, including $75,000 in loans.

Attorney general

Rosenblum, who turns 70 on the day her third term starts in January, faced two opponents who are not lawyers.

Cross, a truck driver from Turner, led an unsuccessful effort to force a recall election against Gov. Kate Brown in 2019. Lars Hedbor, who also ran as the Libertarian nominee four years ago, is a technical writer and author from Beaverton.

All 17 attorneys general in Oregon history, dating back to the creation of the office in 1891, have been lawyers although it is not a legal requirement.

The attorney general is Oregon's chief legal officer and represents state government in state and federal courts. But most criminal prosecutions are initiated by district attorneys in the 36 counties. The Department of Justice has about 1,400 employees and a two-year budget exceeding $650 million.

"This evening is a time for celebration," Rosenblum said during the livestreamed event.

"But as soon as we have the results of this election sorted out, it will be time for us to get back to work. Democracy is a team sport. The rule of law, which is so central to the work I do, can only come into play with an enlightened and engaged citizenry — one that is committed to the common good in the pursuit of a truly better future for all of us."

Rosenblum earned her bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Oregon, where Dave Frohnmayer, the future attorney general and university president, was one of her law professors.

After five years in private practice, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in Eugene and Portland from 1980 to 1989, when she was appointed a Multnomah County judge. She was named to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2005 and stepped down in 2011.

She won the Democratic primary for the open office in 2012, and became attorney general when Democrat John Kroger resigned early with six months remaining in the term.

She will be the third recent attorney general, after Republican Frohnmayer (1981-91) and Democrat Hardy Myers (1997-2009), to win three terms.

Under the Oregon Constitution, the secretary of state and the state treasurer — along with the governor — are limited to two consecutive terms. The attorney general has no term limits.

The new terms start Monday, Jan. 4.

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