Oregon state Treasurer Read prepares to enter secretary of state race

The treasurer is the first to officially announce intentions to run for secretary of state after Shemia Fagan left under a cloud of scandal

By: - July 24, 2023 3:23 pm
Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read joined Oregon college students at a rally against higher education budget cuts Thursday, May 11, 2023. Read said there is "no better investment for the future of Oregon than higher education." (Alex Baumhardt/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

State Treasurer Tobias Read, pictured at a May 2023 rally against higher education budget cuts, plans to run for secretary of state. (Alex Baumhardt/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Oregon state Treasurer Tobias Read plans to run for secretary of state next year, he confirmed Monday. 

Read, a former state representative from Beaverton who sought the Democratic nomination for governor last year, is nearing the end of his second term as treasurer. He can’t run for re-election because of constitutional term limits. 

Willamette Week first reported Read’s run. His former campaign manager confirmed the news and shared a statement from Read, who plans to officially launch his campaign after candidates can begin filing for office in September. 

“The office of secretary of state is very important to Oregonians and it’s critical that we restore accountability in that office,” Read said. “As secretary of state, I will rebuild trust and give voters confidence that their public officials work for the people—and no one else. I’ve built a reputation for competently and professionally managing the state treasurer’s office. I’m looking forward to talking to voters in the coming weeks, and will have something more formal to announce in September.”

Rebuilding trust is top of mind for any candidate for the state’s top elections job after former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan resigned this spring following revelations that she moonlighted for a troubled cannabis company run by campaign donors and involved in an audit her office was conducting. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission earlier this month launched a full investigation into Fagan’s apparent conflict of interest and whether she accurately reported income and gifts on her annual statements of economic interest.

State and federal prosecutors are also looking into Fagan’s $10,000-per-month side job for the founders of the La Mota marijuana retail chain and the audit her office conducted of the state agency that regulates the cannabis industry. 

Read is the first candidate in what could be a crowded Democratic primary. Appointed Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, a former Portland-area auditor, has said she doesn’t plan to run for a full term.

No Republicans have yet announced. A Republican hasn’t won a statewide election in Oregon since former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson in 2016, and state Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, lost to Fagan by seven points in 2020. 

The secretary of state oversees more than 200 employees working on elections, audits, business registrations and the state archives. Because Oregon doesn’t have a lieutenant governor, the secretary of state is also next in line for governor if Gov. Tina Kotek leaves office before her term expires. 

As elected treasurer, Read has been second in the line of succession since Fagan resigned in May because appointed secretaries of state aren’t eligible. 

The state treasurer is responsible for the state’s credit ratings, manages an investment portfolio of about $106 billion and oversees public investing, banking, bonding and financial programs. The Legislature, not the treasurer, is responsible for setting the state budget.

Candidates can begin filing for office on Sept. 14, but they can start collecting campaign contributions at any point. Read has about $36,500 left in his campaign bank account from his previous races. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.

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