By editorial board • 

Richardson earns nod for Secretary of state

Two years ago, longtime Southern Oregon lawmaker Dennis Richardson got caught running the wrong race.

The conservative principles shaped by his LDS faith, rural roots, Republican politics and Vietnam combat service ran counter to the voting trends of Oregonians — a majority of whom reside in liberal-leaning metro areas.

But Richardson is a deeply ethical man rigidly correct in both his public and private life. That makes him a good fit for secretary of state, where the principal duties are serving as the state’s chief elections officer, auditor, recordkeeper and archivist. He has the will, discipline and integrity to keep things honest.

This year, it’s his opponent, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who’s caught running the wrong race.

A deeply partisan Democrat, he’s portraying himself as a champion of civil rights, women’s rights, abortion rights, union rights, gay rights, worker rights and environmental rights. He’s claiming endorsements from NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Basic Rights Oregon, the Sierra Club and 36 labor unions, but only two business associations, both exceedingly obscure.

The policy action all plays out at the governor’s office, but the secretary of state is constitutionally next in line, which is how Kate Brown secured the job. It has also been a tried and true stepping stone for past governors, including Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall and Barbara Roberts.

Clearly, Avakian’s real goal is the governorship, and he’s already gearing up for his run.

Even Willamette Week, beacon of Portland progressives, harbors misgivings on this score. After interviewing him in the primary, and making him third choice in a field of three, it concluded:

“As labor commissioner, Avakian has latched onto high-profile issues: gay rights, veterans’ hiring preferences and racial discrimination. That may please constituents, but he often seems to take on issues because of what the attention can do for him as for the interests of those he purports to serve.

“Avakian is so eager to win he has exaggerated the duties the Oregon Constitution established for the secretary of state, pledging to punish polluters, audit private companies and police workplace pay equality at state agencies. Those are jobs already assigned to other elected officials and state agencies. Avakian is pledging to be all things to all people in a cynical attempt to seduce uninformed voters. It’s irresponsible.”

The publication had no such qualms about Richardson, saying:”When Dennis Richardson ran for governor in 2014, his conservative social views — he’s pro-life and against same-sex marriage — crippled him ... Secretary of state is a better fit for ... a retired trial lawyer who is analytical and, as a former co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, an expert on the state’s budget.”

We also embraced Richardson on the GOP side, while rejecting Avakian on the Democratic side, and for similar reasons.

Richardson promises to instill accountability, transparency and integrity in an office where those values are paramount. That makes his general election endorsement an easy call.