Voting in the Republican primary for secretary of state comes down to a simple choice: Do you want the candidate who speaks seriously about using 30-foot-tall water slides to get commuters across the Columbia River? Or do you want the candidate who is the reasonable choice in the race, who has a strong set of germane policy ideas?
For the water slide folks, your candidate is Dave Stauffer, 70. The former analyst for the state of Oregon has run for governor before as a Democrat. Now he’s running as Republican in this race. Frankly, he seems much more interested in chatting about things such as water slides than the more relevant issues for the office.
For everyone else, the person to vote for in this Republican primary is state Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer.
Thatcher, 55, served in the Legislature as a representative from 200-2014 and has been a member of the Senate since 2015. She has run a road construction business and also a business that rents out traffic safety devices, such as those electronic signs that let you know construction is ahead. It’s that combination of business and legislative experience that make her a strong candidate.
When we were interviewing Thatcher, one thing that stood out is how powerfully she spoke of her commitment to keeping the Secretary of State’s Office nonpartisan. She said she wouldn’t make decisions based on party or whether she agreed with a person or an idea.
The office must be run evenhandedly, she said. And she emphasized that she knows what it is like to be treated differently because of personal views.
She wants to ensure that it would not happen.
Thatcher, of course, knows small businesses are struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic. The secretary of state’s small business advocate can help.
Thatcher said she hoped to do what she could to support and reinforce that office’s effort to help businesses navigate government and find the assistance that is out there.
The secretary of state’s office’s audits division could play a valuable role in learning lessons from the response to the pandemic, Thatcher said. She stressed she isn’t aiming to parcel out blame. The important thing will be to find out how Oregon can do better.
The key to successful audits, she said — in part from her time on a state audits committee, is buy-in. The state department or program being evaluated needs to buy into the idea of an audit and also to the solutions.
And legislators need to buy into the idea of providing the tools departments and programs need to succeed.
In the Democratic primary, all the candidates are nearly uniform in support of some changes — same-day voter registration, ranked-choice voting and some sort of campaign finance reform. Thatcher said her job as secretary of state would not be to establish those policies. Those would be decided by laws passed by the Legislature or perhaps ballot measures. She did point out, though, on the issue of same-day voter registration that the reason that was implemented had a lot to do with the cult set up by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Wasco County.
The group tried to take over local government by busing in homeless people to vote. Because of that, voters passed the ballot initiative in 1986 to set the cut off for registration at 21 days.
Thatcher is clearly the best choice in the Republican primary.