By editorial board • 

Gudman best qualified in state treasurer race

In an ideal world, politics would permeate the governor’s office, but the offices of attorney general, secretary of state, labor commissioner and state treasurer would be as non-partisan as we could possibly make them. They would be managed by technocrats steeped, respectively, in the inner workings of the law, elections, labor relations and finance.

Overall, the Oregon electorate has generally done a pretty good job over the years, even though only one office, that of labor commissioner, is actually filled on a non-partisan basis. Voters have largely managed to settle on honorable public servants willing and able to put partisanship aside.

The recent Shemia Fagan debacle in the Secretary of State’s Office shows just how badly things can go wrong when important public affairs are entrusted to someone who puts politics and self-interest over principle. Let that serve as a warning.

In this year’s treasurer’s race, voters are tasked with finding someone as capable, even-handed and low-key as Tobias Read, a technocrat’s technocrat. Term-limited out in the treasurer post, he’s set his sights on the helm over at the secretary of state’s office.

Eccentric and bombastic Brian Boquist, our local state senator, is the lone candidate on the Republican side. And he’s manifestly ill-suited for the job.

That makes the stakes all that much higher on the Democratic side, where the choice lies between institutional investment expert Jeff Gudman and Senate budget writer Elizabeth Steiner. We’re casting our lot with Gudman, whom we view as better qualified and less politically rooted.

Gudman is making his third run.

He earned the Republican nomination in 2016 and 2020, losing narrowly to Read the first time and more decisively the second. Never a party insider, he switched affiliations as the GOP continued to wade ever deeper into the conservative stridency and ideology embraced by Boquist.

Some will see the party-switching as a bad omen. We see it more as a good omen, suggestive of someone not mired in the kind of petty tribal allegiances prone to interference with even-handed public administration.

The state treasurer is responsible for managing a $100 billion investment fund. It includes a Public Employment Retirement System portfolio featuring an unfunded liability of truly frightening proportions — $28 billion and growing.

Like Fagan, Steiner is closely allied with Oregon’s powerful public employee unions. They will be financing her campaign, as they did Fagan’s, and PERS is an untouchable third rail for them.

Gudman has put forward an array of ideas for managing Oregon’s investments to better effect, including the PERS element. One suggestion he’s put forth is dedicating Oregon’s biennial kicker to helping close the yawning PERS liability gap — politically challenging, to be sure, but worthy of consideration nonetheless.

Gudman is a graduate of Portland’s Wilson High School, California’s Pomona College and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, where he earned an MBA in finance and management. He makes his home in Lake Oswego, where he’s served on the city council, budget committee and transit committee.

A former All-American swimmer, he’s held high-level administrative and finance posts in state, regional, national and Olympic swimming organizations. He’s served as treasurer for the Legacy Emanuel Foundation, Multnomah Athletic Club and Camp Fire organization.

Earlier in his career, he served as a financial analyst with Hyster, controller with Magnetech and treasurer with several NW Natural Gas subsidiaries. Now managing his own investment business, he’s been attending Oregon Investment Council and Public Employees Retirement System meetings on a regular basis for years.

Gudman’s familiarity with the inner workings of large-scale public, private and nonprofit investment funds would give him a big head start in assuming command of the state’s investment program. And he has developed a platform laying out some of his ideas in substantial detail.

Steiner is bright and accomplished in her own right.

A physician, she maintains a family medical practice at the Oregon Health & Science University and teaches there on the side. She earned a B.A. in religion and the humanities at the University of Chicago before going on to earn her M.D. at the University of Massachusetts, in her home state.

She got into politics through public health activism, and landed a seat in the Oregon Senate in 2011. She focused to a large extent on health issues in the leadup to her Senate service and early tenure in the body, before moving into the budget-writing arena.

On her legislative page, she touts the value of her medical experience this way: “My 35 years of experience in healthcare professions have given me a breadth of understanding of state systems that can be transferred to other large systems and agencies in our state government.”

However, we feel Gudman’s 35 years of experience in the intricacies of institutional investment and finance trumps Steiner’s in public health. It holds much more direct relevance.

Steiner’s web of entanglements with her party’s inner leadership circle, left-leaning Portland caucus and network of union allies also gives us pause. And we couldn’t help noting her ardent support of a Portland teachers strike now forcing the district into deep, across-the-board staff cuts.

It comes down to this: We feel Oregonians would be in surer, safer hands with Gudman. He possesses the knowledge, tools and dispassionate outlook to fix what’s broken and fine-tune what isn’t.

Endorsement Plan

Continuing a newspaper tradition dating back to our nation’s founding, we have embarked on a month-long series of endorsements designed to conclude Friday, May 3, in conjunction with the mailing of ballots for Oregon’s May 21 primary. The schedule is as follows, complete with decisions, insofar as they have been made:

April 12: Democratic nomination for attorney general (Dan Rayfield); Republican nomination for attorney general (Will Lathrop).

April 19: Democratic nomination for secretary of state (Tobias Read); Republican nomination for secretary of state (Dennis Linthicum).

April 26: Democratic nomination for state treasurer (Jeff Gudman); Republican nomination is uncontested.

May 3: Position 2 on the non-partisan Yamhill County Board of Commissioners.

Our aim is to provide readers with the facts we found relevant and the conclusions we drew from them, in hopes of helping to better inform their personal decisionmaking. We realize they might well use our facts and reasoning to reach other decisions, which is the way things are supposed to work in a healthy democracy.


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