PORTLAND, Ore. -- The race to be Oregon’s next Secretary of State is in a dead heat, bucking the trend in other major races where Democrats and enjoying strong leads.
A new poll from KGW and The Oregonian/OregonLive shows Republican Dennis Richardson with a slight lead over Democrat Brad Avakian; 34 percent of voters said they’re with Richardson, compared to 33 percent for Avakian.
But the key number is 26 percent of voters who say they are still undecided.
The poll was conducted by Portland-based Riley Research Associates and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
“That’s an extremely close race,” said pollster Mike Riley. “I think it’s partly because of the character of Dennis Richardson, and I think it’s partly because of the character of Brad Avakian.”
Often a low-profile statewide position, the Secretary of State office has gained significant publicity in Oregon in recent years. Because the state does not have a Lieutenant Governor post, then-Secretary of State Kate Brown became governor in February 2015 when John Kitzhaber resigned amid controversy.
The two candidates bring very different styles to the race.
Avakian, the current state labor commissioner and a Washington County resident, aggressively pushes his progressive agenda. His campaign highlights his work fighting for LBGT rights and equal pay laws – which are not issues typically associated with the secretary of state’s position.
Richardson, a former Republican state legislator from Central Point, has a much more conservative record, including on social issues. But he also wins praise for working across party lines while in the state legislature.
He ran for governor in 2014 but lost to John Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber ultimately resigned just a few months later in the middle of an influence peddling scandal.
“He ran for governor in 2012 talking about the issues of John Kitzhaber and it all proved to be true,” Riley said. “I think a lot of people felt like he was maybe due for a do-over. Maybe there’s a little bit of sympathy leftover from the governor’s race.”