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The secstate race

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From the Oregon Secretary of State:

“The Secretary is Oregon’s chief elections officer, auditor and archivist. Additionally, the Secretary of State promotes job growth by streamlinin​g the creation and expansion of business, authenticates documents for travel or study abroad, and offers notary training and listings. Oregon is the only state where the secretary of state is responsible for auditing public spending. In addition, the secretary serves with the governor and treasurer on the Land Board and manages and oversees Oregon’s Common School Fund.”

The chief duties of the Secretary of State are regulating and bettering our Democratic process as the chief elections officer, maintaining the registration and filings for corporations, notaries, and security interests, and auditing the functions of the State. A less important, but vital job is to act, along with the Governor and State Treasurer, as a Board of Directors for investment of the Common School Fund.

There are three Democrats who want this job. Here they are, along with their priorities as expressed on their announcements and their websites.

I went to Mr. Avakian’s website for Secretary of State to see what issues he lists as important in his campaign. But there are none that seem related to the office that he’s running for. He does cite a long list of work and his record on enforcing labor laws and equity in the workplace. He is particularly proud of his work in wage theft issues. So I looked elsewhere for information on why exactly he is running for Secretary of state and found this in his announcement for Secretary of State:

“Oregon deserves a Secretary of State who will be a champion for a fair economy, healthy environment and a strong democracy. Increasing corporate accountability in the workplace, using a wider range of tools to create good jobs, and combating climate change are just a few of the areas where this office can lead the way.”

So, as far as I can tell, either Mr. Avakian thought he was running for re-election as Labor Commissioner – a reasonable mistake to make given our State’s recent history on the timing of Labor Commissioner elections – or based on his announcement only he may have thought he was running for Governor.

From Richard Devlins website under his “Priorities” tab, his content is a laundry list of Democratic priorities. A Summary:

Prioritizing stable and adequate funding for schools

There are many vulnerable individuals in our communities – abused and neglected children, victims of crime and domestic violence, and many others – and we have the duty to help them however we can.

Richard believes [that we need] a strong and improving economy and ensuring that the Oregon workforce meets the needs of employers.

In difficult financial times, state funding for public schools, health care, public safety and services for seniors are on the line, but these critical services must be protected, while at the same time protecting taxpayers’ interests. Richard believes that government should live within its means and be transparent to Oregonians, and that government officials and legislators must make difficult decisions. is committed to not only balancing the budget but also ensuring that the budget is reflective of Oregonian’s priorities

Sen. Devlin is all over the map here. And there was a lot I left out of this summary – for brevity’s sake. While some of his priorities touch on the duties of Oregon Secretary of State, he seems to have no focused idea on how he would use the power of the office, or improve elections and audits, or streamline and protect business filings and data bases.

From Rep. Hoyle’s announcement and website. Her Priorities are:

“Reduce barriers to voting and make it easier for every eligible Oregonian to have access to the ballot;

Look for new ways to streamline government by getting the most out of every tax dollar while protecting critical services;

Be a champion for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Oregon; and

Bring a renewed commitment to improving ethics and accountability.”

Now here we go. Rep. Hoyle is talking more about how she would use the tools of the office of Secretary of State to achieve policy. It still over promises, but at least the promises are directly related to the power of the office. She has obviously sharpened her message and knows what she’s running for.

What’s going on?

All these candidates know that the winner of the Democratic Primary has a close to 100% chance of being our next Secretary of State and Mr. Avakian and Sen. Devlin have decided that the best way to win the office in a partisan primary in 2016 is to just be a solid Blue candidate and not address the nuts and bolts of how they’d run the office of Secretary of State. In effect, Mr. Avakian and Sen. Devlin campaigning as if it’s for the office of “The most Democratic Democrat in Oregon”.

Why should this be troubling? After all, this is just a Democratic primary race. It’s troubling because the Democrats have a tight hold on statewide office, so the Democratic closed primary is the de facto general election for statewide office in Oregon. And the fact is, the Democratic and Republican parties are moving further to the extremes as moderates leave these two parties. So If Mr. Avakian and Sen. Devlin are correct, that Democratic Primary voters care more about a candidates orthodoxy than they do about how a candidate would perform their duties in the office they seek, then the most partisan will be rewarded in our closed primary system and we will continue down the road of hyper-partisanship.

Rep. Hoyle in contrast is speaking to the office and how she would use the power of the office to achieve some Democratic goals. And while I wasn’t invited to the recent Democratic Summit, I did see an email from Rep. Hoyle touting her position on campaign finance reform. Particularly her opposition to the idea that money equals speech. This position is contrary to the position of the Democratic Financial base (The Democratic dark money group Our Oregon is opposed to overturning Citizens United), and could represent a candidate who is more independent and able to represent all Oregonians. Rep. Hoyle has not been overly kind to the growing independent movement as represented by the Independent Party of Oregon. But she doesn’t seem as hostile to the election reform movement as she seemed during the last session. Her emerging/evolving thinking on democracy reform, and her campaign that actually talks directly to the power of the office of Secretary of State is a clear step up from the campaigns of her challengers.

Independents need to watch this race very carefully. The winner will likely be the point person for at least the next 6 years on the very important issues of campaign finance reform, election reform, and voter registration issues. All of these should be at the top of the list for voters who would like to assure that every vote counts. Not just Democratic votes. Not just Republican votes.

As of today, it appears that – to my utter surprise and astonishment – Rep. Val Hoyle is the best candidate for the job of Secretary of State. Go Val.

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