By editorial board • 

Read stands out among secretary of state hopefuls

Over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, Phil Keisling, Bill Bradbury and Kate Brown combined to head the Secretary of State’s office for a quarter of a century.

But since Brown ascended to the governorship in 2015, the torch has been passed seven more times, counting interims and appointees. We’ve only had two elected secretaries of state in 10 years, one dying in office and the other resigning in disgrace.

It’s time the office had another run in stable, competent hands. And eight candidates have come forward, five Democrats and three Republicans.

Vying for the Democratic nomination are two-term State Treasurer Tobias Read, two-term State Sen. James Manning, retired lawyers James Crary and Dave Stauffer, and retired machinist Paul Wells. On the GOP side, the contenders are State Sen. Dennis Linthicum, real estate broker Brent Barker, and business analyst Tim McCloud, who spent several years homeless before getting back on his feet.

On the Democratic side, we offer an enthusiastic endorsement of Read, who got our nod for the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial nomination over Tina Kotek, based on his character and accomplishments.

On the Republican side, we offer a decidedly less enthusiastic endorsement of Linthicum, a divisive, unrepentant 2020 election denier and 2023 session boycotter who is barred from seeking re-election to the Legislature.

Sorry, Republicans. He’s no Dennis Richardson, late holder of this high office. But he looks to be the best you’ve got this time around.

Two years ago, we said: “Why Read over Kotek, whose near-universal union backing has to make her the favorite? Primarily because we see him as a moderate, thoughtful and likable consensus-builder, thus offering a more striking departure from the contentious reign of Kate Brown.” And we’ve seen no reason to change our minds.

Read grew up in rural Montana and Idaho.

He came to Oregon to study politics and economics at Willamette University, then served as an aide to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers in Washington, D.C. He went on to earn his MBA at the University of Washington and move into management with Nike in Portland.

He won a seat in the Oregon House and advanced through the leadership ranks before moving on to the elected Treasurer’s office helm in 2016. His business orientation, political moderation and amiable personality made him a great fit there.

Read has the calm, reflective nature to provide the same sort of steadying influence over at the Secretary of State’s office, where it’s badly needed right now. In our view, he would clearly be the best choice for Oregon Democrats.

On the heels of a losing bid for a Eugene House seat in 2016, Manning was appointed to a Eugene Senate seat. He was elected to a full term in 2018 and re-elected without opposition in 2022.

After 24 years in the U.S. Army, he served in various law enforcement and corrections capacities. Along the way, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and is now in the dissertation phase for a doctorate in organizational leadership.

He has an extensive record of public service, including three terms chairing the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs and elected service on the Eugene Water & Electric Board since 2012. But in our analysis, he doesn’t rise to the level of Read.

An Ashland resident, Crary is a retired lawyer who did his undergraduate work at Pacific Lutheran University and earned his law degree at the University of San Diego.

He mounted losing bids for Congress in Eastern Oregon’s 2nd District in 2016 and 2018. He’s held fire and school board seats, but never been tested beyond that level.

Stauffer has sought the office twice before, as a Democrat in 2016 and Republican in 2020, losing badly each time. He’s also sought the governorship twice, as a Republican in 2018 and Democrat in 2022. He finished a distant ninth in his latest run, collecting 2,302 votes to Tina Kotek’s 275,301.

A retired lawyer and securities analyst, he holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago, MBA from the University of Portland and law degree from Lewis & Clark College.

Wells is a retired Newberg machinist with an even longer record of bi-partisan futility.

He has filed for secretary of state, variously as a Republican, Democrat and Independent, every four years so far this century. That makes this his seventh run.

An Indiana transplant, he is a Marine Corps veteran with electrical engineering degrees from Purdue and Portland State universities. But he doesn’t seem to have the requisite credentials and, like Stauffer, has never found traction under any party flag.

We don’t think any of the latter three deserve a serious look.

To the extent Read has a counterpart on the Republican side, it would have to be Linthicum, as he’s the only one of the three to hold state office.

Linthicum served as a software developer in California before moving north to Oregon about 20 years ago. He was elected to the Klamath County Board of Commissioners in 2008 and Oregon Senate in 2014.

Holder of a B.A. in economics from UCLA and M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University, he’s long been known as a partisan firebrand.

His leadership of a bitter and divisive recall campaign propelled him the county board seat. After winning a state legislative post, he followed up by mounting an unsuccessful insurgent campaign to oust fellow Republican Greg Walden from Congress in 2016. He engaged in Senate protest walkouts in 2019 and 2023, and the latter denied him a shot at another term.

He joined Dallas Heard in an insurgent takeover of the state party operation in 2021, and led state, regional and even national efforts to question, if not overturn, the 2020 presidential election. He’s also been a leading promoting of the Greater Idaho succession movement on Oregon’s dry side.

But repeated lack of success has made it hard for the GOP to recruit credible candidates for state office. And the party’s other 2024 hopefuls have little to offer.

Barker is a real estate broker from Aloha.

He was born in Iowa and educated at Cal State University, but has Oregon roots reaching back to childhood. He holds a graduate degree in dispute resolution from the Pepperdine University law school, but has limited his career to commercial real estate.

He ran for the non-partisan post of labor commissioner two years ago, but washed out with a fourth-place finish in the primary. According to The Oregonian, in an endorsement interview there, he advocated reducing or eliminating Oregon’s vote-by-mail system altogether in favor of a return to polling place voting only, which it found disqualifying.

McCloud, then a homeless part-time college student in La Grande, first surfaced in politics two years ago as one of 34 Oregon gubernatorial candidates. He finished 10th in the Republican primary with 4,400 votes.

An Arizona transplant now living in Marion County, he says his first-hand experience with homelessness gives him a unique perspective. In his gubernatorial campaign, he advocated a voucher system as a means of improving performance, providing more choice and increasing the graduation rate.

He advocates limiting government and taxes, but has been short on specifics applications to the Secretary of State’s office.

The Oregonian declined to endorse on the GOP side, based on Linthicum’s strident election denial stance, Barker’s hostility to vote-by-mail and McCloud’s thin resume.

We sympathize, but feel all voters face lesser-of-the-evils choices on occasion, and don’t see any meaningful way to duck that here.

Our advice? Look to Read in the general. He’s as good as you’re going to get.


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