Richardson Wins Oregon Secretary Of State Race, Ending GOP Drought

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Nov. 9, 2016 5:30 a.m.

Republican Dennis Richardson successfully ended Democrats' hold on statewide office seats in Oregon, winning the race for Secretary of State over Democrat Brad Avakian.


The race for Oregon's No. 2 statewide office was considered one of the tightest statewide races by political observers leading up to Election Day. Richardson is his party's first candidate elected to statewide office since Jack Roberts won reelection as labor commissioner in 1998. Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith was the last Republican to win statewide in 2002.

Richardson learned he won that race as he was preparing to leave the stage at the Salem Convention Center.


“Woo-hoo! Alright!" Richardson shouted from the stage. "What they said is The Oregonian has called it for us. That according to them, I will be the next Secretary of State for Oregon.”

Richardson’s opponent, Democratic labor commissioner, Brad Avakian, conceded late Tuesday.

Richardson campaigned as a Republican check against years of Democratic control of the governor's mansion and the Legislature. The Central Point Republican pledged to be an aggressive auditor and an impartial elections supervisor in a state that's been largely managed by Democratic leaders.

Richardson enjoyed strong name recognition thanks to his failed run for Oregon Governor in 2014 against incumbent John Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber would eventually resign amid a scandal related to the questionable dealings of his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes. That resignation opened the governor's job to then-Secretary of State Kate Brown.

The sitting state labor commissioner, Avakian, ran for secretary of state with an expansive view of the job's capacity. He touted involving young people in voting through his "Youth Vote" initiative, whereby public school students would receive ballots and fill them out — with the results being tabulated but not counted in the final results.

Avakian also pledged to expand the secretary of state's traditional auditing focus on public agencies to include businesses that contract with the state.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum won re-election against Republican Daniel Crowe. And in the open race for Oregon treasurer, Democrat Tobias held a lead against Republican Jeff Gudman and Independent Chris Telfer.