State Treasurer Tobias Read campaigned for reelection on the argument that his low-key approach and steady hand are needed to navigate Oregon’s finances through COVID-19′s rough waters. Voters apparently agreed, electing Read to a second four-year term on Tuesday.
Unofficial returns Wednesday morning showed Read, a Democrat, leading Republican challenger Jeff Gudman, a Lake Oswego investor, by double digits.
“I think that there’s still a lot of votes out there to be counted,” Gudman said Tuesday evening. “I don’t think they’re going to be enough for me to overcome the gap that’s out there right now.”
The result marks the second time Read has beat out Gudman for the seat. The Republican lost to Read by fewer than 3 percentage points in 2016.
The outcome is also a blow to Republicans, who saw Gudman as a candidate who gave them one of their best chances to snatch a statewide seat this year. Alongside Read, Democratic state Sen. Shemia Fagan appeared to win election to secretary of state, retaking the seat from Republican control. With the additional reelection of Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Democrats once again control every executive seat in the state.
Perhaps sensing that opportunity, Read built up a massive fundraising lead over his challenger in recent weeks. He has raised and spent more than $800,000 this year. As of Monday, Gudman had reported spending a little over $250,000.
“We’ve connected with people in terms of our desire to continue bringing a steady hand to the treasurer’s office in tumultuous times, to navigate these uncertainties with an eye on the horizon, to continue trying to give Oregonians the tools they need to achieve financial security and put Oregon on a stronger financial footing,” Read said.
Often overlooked, the state treasurer has sway over several crucial elements of Oregon’s finances.
The position helps dictate investment strategies for around $100 billion, most of which has a major bearing on the health of the state’s public pension system. The treasurer is also responsible for borrowing money on the state’s behalf via bonds and therefore has a say in how cheaply the state is able to access cash. And the treasurer is effectively the state’s banker, lending operating money to departments that find themselves temporarily short for needed expenses.
On top of those duties, treasurers help decide the fates of public lands as a member of the State Land Board. And they have often taken up the mantle of fiscal responsibility on behalf of Oregon citizens. Read, for instance, placed great emphasis on a new program that allows workers to access a state-sponsored retirement savings plan, if their employer doesn’t offer one. Past treasurers have put a similar emphasis on helping Oregonians save for their children’s college.
Throughout this year’s campaign, Gudman portrayed Read as an ineffective money waster. He argued that Read has not been forceful enough in dictating how the state should tackle the coronavirus pandemic, wildfires and other issues. Gudman pledged to bring a stronger voice to the treasurer’s office, taking an active role in paying down the state’s $24 billion unfunded pension liability.
Read, meanwhile, promised more of the same. He touted cost-saving steps he’s helped implement while in office, as well as his record of helping citizens save for retirement. And while he acknowledged that he hasn’t always proclaimed his successes to voters, he insisted he has had a quiet role in shaping fiscal policy.
“I certainly didn’t shy away from my priorities,” Read said. “I feel like there’s an endorsement from voters in that.”