By Taylor W. Anderson

The Bulletin

PORTLAND — State Rep. Val Hoyle hasn’t announced her candidacy yet, but she will likely run in 2016 to be Oregon’s secretary of state.

Hoyle, a Democrat and former House majority leader from Eugene, already has a full campaign schedule, including an appearance on a panel at the Oregon Hemp Convention last weekend in Portland, and others this week before she officially announces sometime this week, she told The Bulletin on Saturday.

Although Hoyle has long been expected to run for the seat — she announced July 7, the day after the close of the legislative session, that she was considering it — her pending announcement will round out what is already a crowded race for the Democratic nomination.

Despite an unusually packed ballot in 2016 that includes a gubernatorial race to fill the remaining two years of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fourth term, analysts say the top Oregon race next year will be for secretary of state, the state’s No. 2 elected position.

The secretary of state is tasked with overseeing elections, state agency audits and the corporations division.

With Hoyle’s coming announcement, Oregon Democrats will have their first taste of what many expect to be a brutal primary election between some of the party’s juggernauts, as the Democratic Party of Oregon will host the first of three secretary of state debates this weekend at a retreat in Sunriver. Tickets to the political conference cost $225 for the whole weekend.

Hoyle will battle current Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who in his position has courted the support of the state’s powerful labor unions. State Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, who is among the most powerful legislators and holds the purse strings as co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, is also running.

“It has three equal people and they’re Democrats, so they have a chance,” said Jim Moore, who is director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University. “(Avakian) is the favorite simply because of his statewide races.”

In 2012, Avakian lost in a primary bid for Oregon’s first congressional district, a race won by Suzanne Bonamici. He has served as labor commissioner since 2008.

Republican Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken is also running for secretary of state after briefly mulling a gubernatorial run, and he says he’d like to keep business tax returns private, run fair elections and focus on auditing.

Among the Democrats, Hoyle has a big fundraising gap to overcome, with her campaign account sitting around $51,600. Devlin, who will be in the middle of his four-year Senate term and therefore wouldn’t have to give up his seat in the Legislature if he loses, has nearly six times that amount. Avakian has around $182,000 on hand.

“Increasing corporate accountability in the workplace, using a wider range of tools to create good jobs and combating climate change are just a few of the areas where this office can lead the way,” Avakian said in a statement last week when announcing his candidacy.

Avakian in July issued a $135,000 fine on the owners of a Gresham bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who denied service to a lesbian couple, which he said violated Oregon law against refusing service because of sexual orientation. The story made national headlines.

In addition to helping administer elections, the secretary of state office is Oregon’s top auditor, a task Devlin said he looks forward to taking on.

“As the state’s auditor, the secretary of state is in a unique position to make government more effective and accountable,” Devlin said in his announcement. “It might sound dry, but you can have a tremendous impact on the things that matter most to Oregonians.”

As House majority leader, Hoyle wrangled votes and ensured unity among the caucus’ 35 members. Leaders are expected to portray a caucuswide opinion, even while they might have their own unique one.

She said last week it felt good to pass that position on to Portland’s Rep. Jennifer Williamson and regain the ability to be an independent legislator, adding she feels calm in the crowded primary race.

— Reporter: 406-589-4347,

tanderson@bendbulletin.com

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