Gary A. Warner
The Bulletin

SALEM — A website and Facebook page have been created urging former congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner, of Terrebonne, to run for secretary of state in 2020.

McLeod-Skinner says she has seen the “Run Jamie Run” website that popped up early this month, along with a Facebook page with the same goal. She said she didn’t know if she would run in 2020 — or if she did, for what office.

“I have seen the website,” McLeod-Skinner said in an interview last week. “A lot of people have been contacting me since the last election to tell me privately they think I ought to run. I’m giving it serious consideration.”

McLeod-Skinner won the Democratic primary in 2020 to take on Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, in the 2nd Congressional District that makes up much of Eastern, Central and Southern Oregon. She drove over 40,000 miles crisscrossing the sprawling district, meeting voters in small batches. She raised nearly $1 million along the way.

In the end, the heavily Republican district sent Walden back to Washington for an 11th term. But McLeod-Skinner held Walden to 56% of the vote — the first time he had not topped 60% in two decades. She narrowly won Deschutes County, a first for a Walden opponent. It was a loss, but one that made Oregon Democrats take notice.

In the immediate aftermath of the race, McLeod-Skinner told supporters she was ready for a rerun against Walden in 2020.

“Don’t get rid of those lawn signs,” she said.

In the days after the November election, McLeod-Skinner said she was sure she wanted to run again — but mused about a different office: secretary of state.

That was welcome news to Democratic political activist Emily Keizer.

“I live in Eugene and never got a chance to vote for Jamie,” Keizer said. “She came across as very authentic. She is progressive, but also pragmatic. She knew all of the state in a way most candidates never do.”

Keizer said she found other Democrats in Medford, Ashland, Bend and elsewhere who felt the same way. In June, they formed the Run Jamie Run Political Action Committee and registered it with the secretary of state.

Keizer is treasurer of the Lane County Democratic Party. Last year, she was treasurer for Marty Wilde, a Democrat who won a state House seat. She’ll perform the same duties for the PAC promoting McLeod-Skinner. Dick Pedersen, a Medford resident, is named as the PAC‘s director.

Under the “nature of the committee” question on the form, the group wrote “to encourage Jamie McLeod-Skinner to run for Secretary of State.”

The PAC has raised $6,350. The largest amount is a $5,000 loan from Pedersen. The PAC has spent $5,000 on advertising with Cumulus Media, a major radio station group.

Keizer said the PAC was not a candidate committee and McLeod-Skinner has no input into how the money is raised or spent.

While the donations so far are relatively small, Keizer said the best measurement of success is what she said are thousands of people who have gone to the website or Facebook page to express interest in McLeod-Skinner’s candidacy.

McLeod-Skinner says she has taken time since the November election to rest and think, along with passing the bar exam — a longtime goal. In a move that will give McLeod-Skinner more statewide exposure, Gov. Kate Brown appointed her early this year to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. Her nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in April.

McLeod-Skinner said she believes it is imperative that a strong Democrat take on Walden in the 2nd Congressional District in 2020. But it may be time for someone else to make that run while she looks in other directions.

“The question I kept asking myself is, ‘Where could I do the most for our state?’” McLeod-Skinner said. “What are the state’s biggest needs? I think rebuilding public trust in democratic institutions is one, including secure elections. We need to have the best use of economic development, education and health care — the audits by the secretary of state are where the rubber hits the road on all those things.”

Under state law, candidates cannot file for 2020 statewide races until this September. However, a political action committee can be created to raise and spend money.

GOP leaders would prefer that the office remains in the hands of Republicans.

“She wouldn’t be my choice,” said Deschutes County Republican Party chair Paul deWitt. “It’s early, so we don’t know who is running as a Republican. All we know about her is from her run against Walden, and she was pretty liberal. I think the secretary of state needs to be more middle-of-the-road. We don’t need a partisan Democrat working with the Democrats who already control Salem, to make elections even more beneficial to Democrats.”

But McLeod-Skinner said she’s still considering her options. “I hope to have something more to say in a month or so,” she said.

She isn’t the only one with the job on her mind.

The 2020 secretary of state’s race is unique in that it will not feature an incumbent. Dennis Richardson won the job in 2016, becoming the state’s only Republican statewide officeholder. When he died in office Feb. 26, Brown by statute was required to name a Republican as his successor. She let it be known she was looking for a temporary replacement who would not seek the office in 2020. Brown appointed former Republican House Speaker Bev Clarno, of Redmond, on March 31.

McLeod-Skinner said she has admired Clarno, calling her “a phenomenal appointment” for secretary of state. She said that if she were to run for secretary of state, one way she would emulate Clarno is by being a voice for Oregonians east of the Cascades.

With Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Treasurer Tobias Read, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley — all Democrats — running as incumbents, holding onto the open secretary of state’s job has been a top priority for the Oregon Republican Party.

Among the Republicans mentioned as a candidate next year is Clarno’s top deputy, former Rep. Richard Vial, R-Scholls. Before Clarno was selected, state Republicans had sent Brown a list of suggested replacements for Richardson — all of whom would not agree to Brown’s terms about seeking re-election. They included Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, as well as former Rep. Katie Eyre, R-Hillsboro, former Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, and former House Speaker Lynn Snodgrass, R-Boring. Each could be a candidate in 2020.

There are plenty of Democrats eyeing the race. Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, is most commonly mentioned. Recently elected Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle sought the job in 2016, losing the Democratic primary. Hoyle has said after winning the BOLI race in 2018, she didn’t plan to run for any office in 2020.

Keizer said the more Democrats running, the better.

“Dan Rayfield is great,” Keizer said. “There are other great Democrats. We want the best candidate for secretary of state. We think Jamie is that candidate.”

— Reporter: 541-640-2750,