Voters will find five names on the ballot for state treasurer this fall, though only incumbent Ted Wheeler has drawn much attention to date. That’s understandable. Republican candidate Tom Cox was a write-in in the primary, and the other three are minor party candidates with little ability to get the kind of statewide attention necessary to win.
Wheeler, a Democrat, was appointed to fill the remainder of Ben Westlund’s term when the latter died in March 2010. He is the former chair of the Multnomah County Commission and worked in the financial services industry before that.
Wheeler has been just what the state needed as its treasurer. He was vocal in his criticism of Oregon’s willingness to use bond sales as a means of raising money, in effect telling state leaders to put their credit cards away for a time. That’s paid off in improved credit ratings that lower the cost of the bonds it does issue.
He is not Oregon’s bookkeeper-in-chief, nor does he pretend to be. Rather, he oversees the state’s investments and worries about such things as access to higher education. He has been an outspoken advocate of reforming the state’s Public Employee Retirement System, even as his office works to assure that the system’s investments are both sound and profitable.
As for higher education, Wheeler notes that declining public investment in higher education has been matched, nearly dollar for dollar, by an increased burden on the students who attend state schools.
Wheeler’s best-known opponent, Cox, meanwhile, believes pension reform can be accomplished by threatening public employee unions with dramatic action — shutting down state departments to nullify contracts. Cox doesn’t, though, offer a compelling reason why he should replace Wheeler.
Three minor-party candidates also are in the race.
Michael Paul Marsh of the Constitution Party says he would bar the state from investing in “evil” China for moral reasons and end the practice of issuing bonds. John Frederick Mahler, the Libertarian, is running to assure that party has candidates in all top state elections, while Progressive Party candidate Cameron Whitten got involved because of his activities with Occupy Portland.
In the end, Wheeler is the clear choice. He offers a powerful combination of experience, vision and leadership. Voters should return him to office for another term.