SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown wants to select a new secretary of state who does not plan to seek re-election in 2020, saying that person should be focused on running elections and not running for office.
Brown told reporters Thursday that when she was elevated from secretary of state to governor in 2015 with the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber over an ethics scandal, she named a secretary of state to replace her who would not run for re-election the following year.
Jeanne Atkins was appointed secretary of state in 2015, and said she would not be running in 2016 after completing Brown’s term in the state’s second-highest office.
“I didn’t want someone who was both running for the office and overseeing a presidential election, because it would have been the first time they would have overseen an election,” Brown said. She said that by coincidence, the same situation exists now, since she must appoint someone to fill the remainder of a term with another presidential election coming up.
Brown said she also wants to avoid a situation like the one in Georgia in 2018, when Secretary of State Brian Kemp ran for governor while overseeing the vote. Kemp, a Republican, narrowly beat Democrat Stacey Abrams.
She is also looking for a candidate with management skills to fill the remaining term of Dennis Richardson, a Republican who was elected to a four-year term in 2016 and died from brain cancer in February. Oregon statute calls for Brown to name a Republican.
The governor noted that several editorials had criticized her stance.
The Pamplin Media Group of newspapers recently urged Brown to choose someone with ambitions of remaining in office.
“What Oregon needs is a secretary of state who can carry out Richardson’s vision of a less partisan and more transparent state government and, if he or she so chooses, advance his or her own agenda with an eye toward keeping the job beyond 2020,” the media group’s editorial said.
Brown said she expects to name a new secretary of state within the next couple of weeks.
She said she appreciated the input from the Republican Party which recommended five people: former GOP state lawmakers Gene Whisnant, Katie Eyre, Bill Kennemer and Lynn Snodgrass, and Debra Royal, who was Richardson’s chief of staff.
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