Sen. Shemia Fagan of Portland appears to have clinched the Democratic nomination for secretary of state Wednesday, setting her up to run for the state’s second-highest office against a fellow senator in the fall general election.
The Oregonian, in a rare and serious error in its elections modeling, mistakenly called the race after 10 p.m. Tuesday for Sen. Mark Hass, who in fact came in second by about half of a percentage point after more results came in Wednesday. The Bulletin also published The Oregonian’s erroneous article saying Hass had won.
The newsroom’s usually reliable modeling did not sufficiently account for slower results due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Therese Bottomly, editor, who made the final call. “We got it wrong,” Bottomly said. “I unreservedly apologize to Sen. Fagan, Sen. Hass, their supporters and our readers.”
Fagan, an employment lawyer and lawmaker from Portland who served four years in the House and is in her second year in the Senate, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Hass, who is from Beaverton and works in advertising, also could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. He had not declared victory in the race but rather said Tuesday night and again Wednesday that he was waiting for more results to be reported by counties.
Fagan also declined to declare victory Wednesday evening, saying in a prepared statement that “while the secretary of state’s race remains too close to call, it is clear Oregonians set out to make their voices heard, even while facing an unprecedented pandemic. I am so grateful for Oregon’s vote-by-mail process and for the incredible election workers who have been tireless in their work to make sure every voice is heard.”
She also thanked unions, pro-choice groups and others for backing her.
In her primary campaign, Fagan cast herself as the most left leaning Democrat in the race and promised to promote the state’s democratic values, including pushing back publicly against President Donald Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail, assuming he is still in office when the next secretary of state’s term begins in 2021.
She also said she would direct the state’s auditors to avoid “playing ‘gotcha’” in their investigations of state agencies’ performance. Fagan and Hass agreed on several policy changes, such as implementing ranked choice voting, and she said she would look for additional ways to boost voter turnout.
Despite getting into the Democratic primary less than three months ago, Fagan vastly out-fundraised her competitors, Hass and former congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner from Central Oregon. Most of Fagan’s campaign money came from the state’s powerful public employee unions, which Hass attributed to his past votes to trim public pension costs including a 2019 bill that was part of a deal to pass a new $1 billion-a-year business tax to boost public education spending.
Fagan in 2018 accomplished a rare defeat of an incumbent senator, Rod Monroe, over his anti-renter-protection stance. She noted during the primary campaign that she had never lost an election and didn’t intend to this time.
In a by-the-numbers flyer released on Election Day, Fagan’s campaign listed that she’d attended 93 events and interviews, sent 215,788 texts and made 502,943 phone calls. And, finishing on a lighter note: “2 rolls of toilet paper destroyed by my dog during Zoom calls.”
Fagan will face Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, in the November general election. Retaking the secretary of state’s office, held by Republicans for one term, is a top priority for Oregon Democrats, who control four out of the five statewide elected offices plus both chambers of the Legislature.