A Republican has captured one of the highest elected positions in state government, with former state legislator Dennis Richardson winning the Secretary of State post over Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.

With 77 percent of the votes in, Richardson had received nearly 48 percent to nearly 43 percent for Avakian. They had been separated by a smaller margin in earlier returns, but Richardson's lead grew. The Oregonian projected him as the winner just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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The secretary of state works to maximize voter participation, examine public spending, promote state history and facilitate business. The secretary is also first in line for the governor's office.

Democrat Brad Avakian and Republican Dennis Richardson are polar opposite opponents in what may be one of the closest races in the state. Labor commissioner and self-proclaimed “activist” Avakian said he would expand the role of the secretary of state and be more of an advocate for issues and candidates than previous office holders. He pledged to overturn Citizens United, audit corporations and protect residents from fraud.

Richardson said he would take a more traditional role and cut government spending, welcome new businesses and preserve public records. He also wants to create more jobs on public land, something he pledged to do when he ran for governor against John Kitzhaber in 2014 and lost.

Richardson notably received endorsements from all of the state’s major newspapers, while labor organizations and top Democrats have endorsed Avakian.