Naming names: Wild speculation about the next Secretary of State

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

When Kate Brown moves up to Governor, she'll resign as Secretary of State. As the new Governor, she'll have the opportunity to appoint her own replacement (by law, a Democrat). Who might she pick?

First, some basics: Secretary of State Brown was re-elected in 2012 to a second and final term. The position was already going to be open in 2016, so it seems likely that there were a few folks thinking about running. Whoever she appoints will have an opportunity to run in 2016 and again in 2020 (with less than two years left in the term, it won't count against the term limit.)

Brown first has to consider the big choice: Should she pick someone who will run in 2016? Or should she pick a short-term caretaker that won't run, leaving it wide open in 2016? That choice likely comes down to whether she had a successor in mind, or whether she is happy to see a wide-open race as in 2008. (That year, Brown defeated two other State Senators to win the seat.)

Her two most immediate predecessors, Phil Keisling and Bill Bradbury, were both initially appointed -- and in both cases, the Governor picked a non-caretaker, someone who would run. (Keisling in 1990 when Barbara Roberts moved up to Governor, and Bradbury in 1999, when Keisling resigned to pursue a non-political career.)

So, assuming that Brown decides to select someone who will run in 2016, who might she pick? According to the Oregonian's Ian Kullgren, the "leading contenders" are Speaker Tina Kotek, House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, and Senator Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum. No source on that, so chalk it up to The Great Mentioner.

All three are certainly worthy of the post, but some might argue that this is not a good time to re-open leadership elections and destabilize the Legislature.

Update: Speaker Kotek has taken her name out of consideration.

In 1990, when freshly-minted Governor Barbara Roberts looked for a successor, she didn't select someone from leadership. Rather, she picked Keisling, a 34-year-old first-term legislator who had just won his first re-election race.

Is there a fresh face in the legislature that might appeal to Brown? Representatives Jessica Vega Pederson, Lew Frederick, Jennifer Williamson, and Alissa Keny-Guyer are each relatively new to the legislature but have impressed observers with their high energy and focus on equity.

Brown could also score a two-fer. If she were to appoint either Treasurer Ted Wheeler or Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian to Secretary of State, she'd then be able to appoint a new Treasurer or Labor Commissioner. Avakian seems like the more likely bet, given his stronger relationship to organized labor. Avakian previously ran for Secretary of State against Brown in 2008, dropping out of the race when he was appointed Labor Commissioner (when the prior Commish, Dan Gardner, resigned to take a national post in DC with IBEW.) (The same would be true of Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, but I doubt very much that she's interested -- particularly with the investigation underway.)

Of course, it's entirely possible that Brown will look outside the world of currently elected officials entirely.

We'll know soon enough. What do you think, dear readers? Who should Brown pick? Who will Brown pick? What names have I left out?

Update: It's been pointed out to me that I didn't include any State Senators (other than the Oregonian-mentioned Diane Rosenbaum). I'm a little wary about reducing the count of Democrats in the Senate by one, even just for the few weeks it would take to appoint a replacement, but in the interest of wildly speculating, here goes: Senator Richard Devlin is known as a budget-oriented wonk, which might make sense given the role of the Secretary of State in leading audits. As a former reporter, Senator Mark Hass also has the sort of profile that would make a compelling argument for someone to lead elections and audits.

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