Willamette Week - October 2, 2016
Sen. Betsy Johnson, Rep. Brad Witt and Independent Party Chair Sal Peralta cross the partisan divide.
In an unusual move, two veteran Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and state Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) have not only endorsed GOP Secretary of State nominee Dennis Richardson—they've done so in the voters' guide that will soon be mailed to more than two million Oregonians.
The move is a slap in the face to Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state.
The secretary of state serves as Oregon's top elections officer, directs state audits, oversees state-owned lands along with the state treasurer and governor and, as did then Secretary of State Kate Brown last year, becomes governor automatically should the sitting governor leave office.
The current secretary of state, Jeanne Atkins, is serving out Brown's team and not seeking election.
Joining Johnson and Witt in crossing the state's partisan divide is Sal Peralta, secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon. The Independents earlier this year became the state's third major party, after attaining the required number of voters, five percent of all those registered.
Here are the statements the legislators and Peralta submitted for Richardson's page in the voter's pamphlet.
"When the community of Vernonia needed help after the floods, Dennis worked across the aisle, putting people before politics. We believe he'll do the same as Secretary of State," Johnson and Witt wrote.
"Let's elect a candidate who'll protect voting rights for all Oregonians, increase transparency and not be beholden to special interests," Peralta wrote.
Richardson, a former state representative from Central Point, ran against incumbent Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, in 2014, losing 50 percent to 44 percent.
Avakian, former state representative and senator from Washington County, has been Labor Commissioner since 2008.
Richardson says he called Johnson, Witt and Peralta seeking their support and they obliged.
Avakian is philosophical about the slight from his fellow Democrats and Peralta.
"I think some people may find it odd," he says.