Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced that he's running for secretary of state.

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Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced his bid for secretary of state Thursday, saying he’d use the office to speak out against the influence of corporate money in politics.

Nickels, a Democrat, said he’d ensure the office continues to administer elections in a nonpartisan manner, and praised the incumbent, Republican Sam Reed.

But Nickels said he’d also use the position to draw more attention to what he views as threats to democracy, such as the rise of super PACs nationally and Costco’s $20 million campaign to privatize liquor sales in this state.

Whether the secretary of state can have much influence on sweeping campaign-finance issues is debatable — the office’s main functions include administering elections and registering corporations and nonprofits. It does not regulate campaign donations.

But Nickels’ political message is well calibrated to appeal to the Democratic primary electorate. Democrats have been particularly alarmed by the unfettering of corporate money and unlimited donations to super PACs after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.

Nickels had been in an exploratory phase since last month, chatting with potential supporters and raising money for a poll that showed he’d start with a name-identification advantage over rivals.

But name-recognition could work against him, too. After two terms as mayor, Nickels was unceremoniously dumped by Seattle voters in the 2009 primary, coming in third to two relatively unknown rivals, Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn, who went on to win the mayor’s race.

Three other Democrats already are running for the office: state Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Puyallup; state Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup; and Kathleen Drew, who served as a state senator in the 1990s and was until recently a policy aide to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

On the Republican side, Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman is campaigning to succeed Reed, who has held the office since 2000.

The last Seattle mayor elected to statewide office was Republican Arthur Langlie, who was elected governor in 1940, lost a re-election bid in 1944, but was elected again in 1948.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.