State Treasurer Tobias Read (left) and State Senator James Manning (right)

First 2 candidates jump into the race for Oregon Secretary of State

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — The race for Oregon Secretary of State has its first two candidates. State Senator James Manning and State Treasurer Tobais Read both announced Wednesday morning that they intend to run for the office in 2024. Both candidates are Democrats.

Read broke the news of his campaign in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) and a news release, and Manning followed suit a short time later, rolling out his own campaign with a news release and press conference live streamed on Facebook.

Manning was first elected in 2016 and is serving his second term in the Oregon Senate, where he also currently serves as Senate President Pro Tempore. He represents Senate District 7, which includes northern and western Eugene. He served in the U.S. Army for 23 years, then held multiple local government roles in Eugene before running for the Senate. If elected, he would be Oregon’s first Black secretary of state.

Read was elected treasurer in 2016 and previously served for 10 years in the Oregon House of Representatives for House District 27, which includes Beaverton. He ran for governor in 2020 but lost in the primary to Tina Kotek, then launched a campaign for reelection as state treasurer, ultimately winning a second term. He previously worked for Nike for 15 years, and also worked in the U.S. Treasury Department.

Manning’s campaign announcement pointed to his work in the Senate on bills relating to workforce training, health care system improvements and reducing gun violence, referring to him as “a proven progressive” and touting endorsements from former Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio and many current and former state lawmakers.

“Our next secretary of state will be central to defending our democracy and building public trust in the work of the office,” Manning said in a statement. “I have dedicated my life to serving the public and it would be a great honor to serve as our next Secretary of State.”

Read’s announcement pointed to his work in the legislature toward establishing full-day Kindergarten and helping Oregon residents save for college, as well as his later work managing the pensions of retired Oregonians as state treasurer. He also pledged to safeguard Oregon’s election integrity as secretary.

“I’m running for Secretary of State to restore trust and accountability in this important office,” Read said in a statement. “I’ll make sure Oregon continues to lead the nation in secure and accessible voting.”

Turbulent recent history for the office

The secretary of state oversees Oregon’s elections and is tasked with auditing the state government, among other roles. Oregon has no lieutenant governor position, so the secretary of state is the second-highest elected position in the state government and first in the line of succession if the governor resigns or dies (unless the secretary is appointed rather than elected, in which case they’re ineligible to become governor).

The position is the only top-level executive office in Oregon to have been held by members of both political parties over the past three decades. All of Oregon’s governors and state treasurers have been Democrats since at least 1993, but former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson was a Republican, and his appointed successor Bev Clarno was as well.

The position has seen an unusually high turnover rate in the past decade, starting when then-secretary Kate Brown was elevated to governor following the resignation of former Gov. John Kitzhaber in early 2015. Jeanne Atkins was appointed to serve out the remainder of Brown’s term in the office, and then Richardson won the office in the 2016 election. Richardson died in February 2019, and Clarno was appointed to finish his term.

Shemia Fagan then won the office in the 2020 election, but abruptly resigned earlier this year amid a scandal. Kotek appointed current Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade in June to serve out the remainder of Fagan’s term. Griffin-Valade said she doesn’t plan to run in 2024, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle, setting up an open race next year.

Manning and Read both appeared to indirectly reference the circumstances of Fagan’s departure in their campaign announcements; Read’s news release asserted that if elected, he would “immediately set about rebuilding the reputation of the agency,” and Manning stated at his news conference that the next secretary of state would be under “close scrutiny” and would need to make sure “all Oregonians trust in that office.”

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