SALEM — Republican Dennis Richardson, the former legislator from Central Point who challenged John Kitzhaber for governor in 2014, entered a hot race for secretary of state on Thursday, according to written statements and a video on his website.
Richardson becomes the second Republican candidate in the race. Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken has also declared he will run for the office that administers elections alongside counties, runs the state’s corporations division and oversees state agency audits.
Richardson in recent months has been an outspoken critic of the Business Energy Tax Credits that have fallen under widespread scrutiny in Salem. As secretary of state, he says he would focus on the position’s audit function, improve the state’s flawed public records system and ensure a transparent election process.
“Regardless of party, the people have a right to know where their money is going (and) why we continue to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on failed projects without learning lessons so it doesn’t keep happening,” Richardson told The Bulletin.
As a former representative, Richardson dug into budgets and sat on the state’s budget-writing committee when the House was split between Republicans and Democrats.
He ran his gubernatorial campaign trying to highlight ongoing controversies over the more than $300 million spent on the Cover Oregon health care exchange website that never worked as intended before it was scrapped. He also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars spent planning a new bridge across the Columbia River — which is not being built — as examples of government waste.
When Kitzhaber’s campaign was dogged by stories about the work of his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, who was a for-hire environmental consultant while Kitzhaber allowed her to shape state policy, Richardson called for a federal investigation. Those stories helped Richardson pick up momentum late in the campaign, Kitzhaber won by over 5 percentage points.
The secretary of state race has attracted top political talent from Oregon Democrats. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and former House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, of Eugene, are all battling for that party’s nomination.
Democrats have already held two debates, and candidates are seeking the endorsement of the power labor unions ahead of the May primary.
“It’s heartening to me to be able to tell people who put so much time money and effort into my last campaign that I’m not just going to walk away,” Richardson said.
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,