Elections, News, OREGON

Primary voters tap legislators, treasurer and an attorney for statewide office

Oregon voters decided to give a slate of state legislators a chance to prove themselves worthy of a promotion to statewide office in the November elections.

Based on preliminary results in the primaries, Democratic voters want state Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis and the former House speaker, to run for attorney general. Democratic voters also favor state Sen. Portland Sen. Elizabeth Steiner in the state treasurer’s primary. On the Republican side, GOP voters are supporting Republican state Sen. Dennis Linthicum of Klamath County as he seeks the party’s nod to run for secretary of state. 

Rayfield was among the first to comment. 

“I look forward to continuing to discuss my proven track record and vision for the attorney general’s office and hope to earn your vote in November,” Rayfield said in a statement.

The results are unofficial, with elections officials likely to be counting ballots over the next few days. Any ballots postmarked on Tuesday or deposited in a drop box or turned into a county office by 8 p.m. will be counted in the election, which sets the stage for a new Oregon leadership statewide. 

All of the state’s three statewide races – for attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer – are open. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is retiring. Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, appointed by Gov. Tina Kotek in June 2023 after Shemia Fagan resigned amid an ethics scandal, is not running for election. Treasurer Tobias Read has served two consecutive terms which means he can’t serve another. He opted to run for secretary of state.

Here’s a look at the preliminary results:

Attorney general race 

Rayfield, a state representative and an attorney in Corvallis, was leading in the Democratic primary with 76% of the vote as of 8:56 p.m. Tuesday. 

Rayfield was speaker of the state House for two years before stepping down in March when the session ended. In the Democratic primary, he faced Shaina Maxey Pomerantz, executive director of Race Talks, a Portland-based nonprofit that connects people across different cultures. She also was a civil rights investigator for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. She garnered 23% of the vote, according to preliminary returns. 

The attorney general is in charge of the Oregon Department of Justice, which has nearly 1,500 workers statewide and an annual budget of about $406 million. The attorney general represents and defends state agencies when they are sued and performs consumer advocacy on behalf of residents. This can include taking legal action against unethical companies and helping collect child support.

In the Republican primary, Will Lathrop was ahead with 64% of the vote compared with 35% for Michael Cross at about 9 p.m.

Lathrop, a Newberg attorney, has worked for International Justice Mission, a nonprofit human rights agency, in Uganda and Ghana, where  he worked on projects to address human trafficking and help widows and orphans with land rights. 

He also was a deputy district attorney for nearly a decade until 2014 in Marion and Yamhill counties.

“Change is needed,” Lathrop said in a statement Tuesday. “I represent a dawn of new leadership that is focused on public service and problem solving – not partisan politics.”

Secretary of State race

Read, who’s term as treasurer ends in January, was leading the Democratic primary race for secretary of state with 71% of the vote as of about 9 p.m. 

The Democratic primary for secretary of state was a five-way race with two high-profile candidates: Read, state treasurer since 2017, and state Sen. James Manning of Eugene, who placed second with 20% of the vote. The other candidates are retired attorney Jim Crary, inventor Dave Stauffer and retired electrical engineer Paul Damian Wells. 

“I’m incredibly honored by the support of my fellow Oregonians,” Read said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I’m encouraged by how much we have in common: we care about protecting our democracy, our environment, & ensuring that our govt is making a difference. I promise to continue working hard for Oregon’s future.”

The secretary of state is responsible for Oregon’s elections, audits state government agencies and administers state archives. The secretary of state also is first in line to succession if the governor leaves office early. 

It’s also the only statewide office with a Republican in charge in decades: Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson died of brain cancer while in office in 2019. He was elected in 2016.

Linthicum was ahead in the three-way GOP primary with 65% of the vote as of 9 p.m. The Klamath County senator is barred from serving another term in the Senate because he racked up more than nine unexcused absences during the GOP-led walkout in the Senate in 2023. 

The GOP primary race also included Beaverton real estate broker Brent Barker and Salem business analyst Tim McCloud. 

All the Republican candidates have backed false claims of voter fraud in elections. 

Treasurer race

Portland Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, a three-term senator, is leading the Democratic primary with 77% of the vote compared with 23% for Jeff Gudman, an investment manager and former Lake Oswego City Councilman. This is Gudman’s third try for the office but his first as a Democrat: He  previous ran two unsuccessful campaigns for treasurer as a Republican. He said that he switched affiliations because his policies are no longer aligned with the Republican party. 

Steiner touted her budget-writing experience in her campaign. She co-chairs the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee that decides how taxpayer dollars are spent. She is also a family physician and professor at Oregon Health & Science University. If elected in November, she would be the first woman in Oregon history to hold the position. 

“I launched this campaign because I know there’s more we can do to help Oregonians save for their family’s financial goals, boost the financial health of our state and invest in our shared priorities: healthcare, education, housing, jobs and a secure retirement,” Steiner said in a statement.

Steiner is likely to face a fellow senator in the November general election: State Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas ran for the Republican nomination unopposed. Boquist is among the Republican state senators who are barred from serving subsequent terms because of their participation in the 2023 Senate GOP boycott of an abortion bill. 

The state treasurer runs Oregon’s $94 billion PERS fund that provides benefits for about 140,000 state retirees. The treasurer also manages public banking and savings programs, including the Oregon College Savings Plan and Oregon Saves, a retirement savings program run through the treasury.

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.

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