A Nonpartisan Secretary of State

Politicker OR has a story examining how the various Secretary of State candidates feel about making the office non-partisan. The newest candidate in the race, Rick Metsger, has already stated his support for such a reform:

Last week The Oregonian ran an editorial backing a move that would make the Secretary of State a non-partisan position, citing the erosion in public confidence prompted by the 2000 recount fiasco in Florida, in which then Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a known Bush ally, was at the core of the election results, as well as Ohio in 2004, when the Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, also served as an honorary co-chair of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

Blackwell’s dual role prompted a number of lawsuits and allegations of voter disenfranchisement, and since then, several states have considered making the position of chief election officer non-partisan, as some areas have seen an increase in partisanship as both Republicans and Democrats hope to gain an advantage.

Monday morning, the most recent entry into the race, State Senator Rick Metsger, declared on Thom Hartmann’s radio program that he indeed supported the idea of having a non-partisan Secretary of State, and in an interview later, one of his advisers, Stacey Dycus, elaborated.

“If the Secretary of State endorses a candidate, and then something happens so it’s a tight election, then it is difficult for the secretary of State to maintain the appearance of neutrality, even if all the rules have been followed,” Dycus explained.

Rival candidate Vicki Walker has a starkly different opinion than Metsger:

But Metsger’s colleague and opponent Vicki Walker firmly rejected the idea in an interview Monday.

“You can dress up a pig any way you want, and it’s still a pig, so it’s not the nature of the office being partisan or non-partisan, but the nature of the individual,” she said, reasoning that most people have personal political views, so concealing them would be silly, and that the right candidate should be able to conduct his or herself appropriately, regardless of political affiliation.

“I’ve been a Democrat all my life, because I believe in their views, and I can’t just turn that off, but it doesn’t mean I can’t behave in such a way that one would expect from an elected official who presides over state elections.”

Last year the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature offered a report that recommended creating a non-partisan secretary of state, a report that current frontrunner Kate Brown said Monday she would like to review more thoroughly before landing on a firm position.

Read the rest and discuss at Politicker OR.


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