SALEM — Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the Terrebonne Democrat who lost a 2018 run for Congress, took her first official step toward a bid for secretary of state next year.

McLeod-Skinner has formed the Jamie for Oregon campaign finance committee and registered it Friday with the secretary of state.

“I do plan on running for secretary of state,” McLeod-Skinner said Tuesday. “I’ll make a formal announcement within a few weeks.”

Though candidates cannot officially file for state offices earlier than Sept. 12, there is no time limit on establishing political action committees to raise and spend money.

As of Tuesday, no contribution or expenditures were listed by McLeod-Skinner’s committee. Committees currently have 30 days before they have to report receiving a contribution or campaign expenditure.

McLeod-Skinner also has an official website, jamiefororegon.com, to get out word of her campaign.

“I’ve had conversations with folks throughout the state,” McLeod-Skinner said. “I’ve received a lot of encouragement. There’s a sense that we need to connect with all the people in the state, bridge the rural-urban divide. There’s excitement about the idea of a rural Democrat as secretary of state.”

McLeod-Skinner knows it is unlikely she’ll be the last well-known Democrat to announce a bid for secretary of state.

“I’ve reached out to some of the people who have expressed an interest in running, just to let them know what I am doing,” McLeod-Skinner said. “I want this to be completely transparent. I have no problem with running in a crowded field. Primaries can be a great opportunity to exchange ideas.”

Oregon Republican leaders have also said they will make a strong effort to win the secretary of state job in 2020.

The 2020 secretary of state’s race is a rare wide-open statewide race. Treasurer Tobias Read, a Democrat, is seeking reelection. So is U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum hasn’t said if she will seek a third term but has spent several thousand dollars on polling.

Only the secretary of state race is guaranteed to be without an incumbent.

Dennis Richardson was elected to the office in 2016, becoming Oregon’s only Republican statewide officeholder. When he died from brain cancer Feb. 26, Gov. Kate Brown by statute was required to name a Republican as his successor.

Brown let it be known she was looking for someone who would not seek the office in 2020. Brown appointed former House Speaker Bev Clarno, of Redmond, on March 31. Clarno says Brown never explicitly asked her to promise not to run but says she will not seek the office in 2020.

The list of possible Democratic candidates includes Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, who stepped down as House majority leader in early July, while retaining her seat.

In a statement at the time, Williamson said she wanted to serve “the entire state of Oregon.”

Williamson could seek the open secretary of state job but has most often been linked over the years to a possible run for attorney general. A bid in 2020 could lead to a primary against Rosenblum.

Though it is not a statewide office, Williamson has also been linked with a possible bid for Multnomah County district attorney. The incumbent, Rod Underhill, is not seeking a third term in 2020. Three candidates — Deputy U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight, Deputy District Attorney Mariel Mota, and Oregon Criminal Justice Commission Executive Director Mike Schmidt — have already registered campaign finance committees for the race.

Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, has also frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for secretary of state.

On the Republican side, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Vial, a former Republican House member from Hillsboro, could seek to move up to the top job.

Before Clarno’s nomination, the Oregon Republican Party submitted a list of five names to Brown for the position. All had expressed a willingness to serve if appointed, though they would not agree to Brown’s request to stay out of the 2020 race. The list included former Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver; former Rep. Katie Eyre, R-Hillsboro; former Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City; and former House Speaker Lynn Snodgrass, R-Boring.

McLeod-Skinner ran in 2018 for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. She drove more than 45,000 miles to campaign and raised about $1.3 million. Walden was elected to an 11th term but had his lowest margin of victory in two decades.

Brown recently appointed McLeod-Skinner to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

McLeod-Skinner said that while she would not repeat the congressional race herself, she was working with Democratic activists to field a strong Democratic candidate to run against Walden in 2020.

“I think we’ll find a phenomenal candidate,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

23827039