AP Photo/Don Ryan
Dennis Richardson’s temperament, ability to work with legislators from both political parties and his vision for the Secretary of State’s Office make him the best candidate to serve, and voters should elect him to the position.
Richardson, a Republican from Central Point in southern Oregon, is facing Portland Democrat Brad Avakian, who heads the state Bureau of Labor and Industries. The two candidates are vying for the position that oversees state records, business registrations, audits, and voting and elections. Importantly, the secretary of state has two other critical functions: the secretary of state redraws legislative district boundaries if lawmakers are unable to reach agreement; and the secretary of state is first in succession in the event of the resignation or death of the governor. That is how then-Secretary of State Kate Brown became governor after John Kitzhaber resigned.
Richardson ran against Kitzhaber and carried Clatsop County when Kitzhaber was re-elected in 2014. He would bring a steady personality to the office and would provide impartial checks and balances to what he calls a “system broken by a lack of integrity.” He would provide a strong presence for accountability, ethics and transparency in state government, and his experience includes 12 years as a state legislator, during which time he was widely known for his ability to work well with other legislators in both political parties.
As secretary of state, Richardson said, he would support reforms for campaign financing, especially in the area of smaller miscellaneous contributions which are nearly impossible track to their source; provide nonpartisan leadership on other elections issues with innovations like creating an independent citizens commission to help develop more clear and accurate ballot titles; would make a priority of examining government spending; and would audit the Department of Human Services, which has had repeated failures in its mission to protect children. To avoid gerrymandering, he advocates planning for the 2020 census and nonpartisanship when the redrawing of legislative districts is considered.
Richardson’s opponent, Avakian, has “Hulk-sized” ambitions and a record for partisan activism, even though most of the functions in the office he seeks depend on the appearance of impartiality and neutrality, especially in elections. Avakian has been labor commissioner since 2008, has a background as a civil rights attorney, and his experience includes being both a state senator and representative. He believes the secretary of state’s auditing duties should be expanded, without the need of outside approval, to include auditing private corporations that do business with the state, even though other state leaders and agencies already have that responsibility. He does not believe gerrymandering is a problem in Oregon.
Avakian’s ambitions and agenda simply don’t make him a good fit for secretary of state. Integrity, accountability and vision make Dennis Richardson far better suited to occupy the secretary of state’s office, and voters should make Richardson their choice.