What could be a hotly contested race for Oregon secretary of state next year has its first guaranteed candidate.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Terrebonne Democrat who landed on the state political stage last year, confirmed Thursday she’ll enter the race. In doing so, she’ll make the case that Oregon needs to maintain a rural perspective among statewide officeholders and that she is uniquely positioned to help Oregon move forward.
“I've been surprised at the number of people from the Portland metro area who've said to me, ‘Yeah, we absolutely can't just have statewide leadership from Portland. We have to have that perspective from across the state,’” McCleod-Skinner told OPB.
Her impending candidacy was first reported by the Bend Bulletin.
The former city manager of the town of Phoenix, McLeod-Skinner also spent years as an environmental and city planner in California. She launched an unsuccessful bid against Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden last year. While she lost the contest by 17 percentage points, McLeod-Skinner performed better against Walden than any challenger since he won his 2nd District seat in 1998.
“I was really focused on policy issues and making change through the legislative process,” she said of her congressional run. “What we've seen in the past years, and many of the concerns and issues I've heard raised in talking to people, is there's really a growing concern with the functionality of the process itself.”
To that end, McLeod-Skinner said her platform will include proposals for improving Oregon’s elections process, which she said is already better than most. Two ideas she’s looking into: allowing mail-in ballots to qualify if they are postmarked by Election Day and moving to same-day voter registration.
She's also focused on the secretary of state's audit function, which some have complained was weaponized under former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican who died in February of brain cancer.
McLeod-Skinner floated the idea of auditing public money that is spent with private companies and said auditors can work more closely with their audit subjects in creating and presenting findings.
She made clear that she supports a cap on campaign finance contributions in Oregon and said she plans to institute a cap in her own campaign, though Oregon law does not require one.
“I'm looking at what that number should best be,” McLeod-Skinner said.
While her official campaign rollout will occur in coming days, McLeod-Skinner has created a website and filed a political action committee in connection with the race. She had been looking recently at making another congressional run, she said, but decided the need was most pressing in state government.
It’s extremely likely McLeod-Skinner will have company.
Current Secretary of State Bev Clarno was appointed after Richardson’s death and has pledged not to run a campaign, meaning the seat will be wide open. Since Richardson won the seat in 2016, the secretary of state’s office has been the only statewide executive office held by a Republican.
Among Democrats, state Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, has long been rumored to be interested in the job. McCleod-Skinner told OPB she reached out to Rayfield to offer a heads up about her decision to run. She did not describe the conversation.
On the Republican side, former state Rep. Rich Vial, who currently serves as deputy secretary of state, told the Oregonian/OregonLive he is "strongly considering a run."
The first day to formally file as a candidate is Sept. 12.