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Former Gov. Barbara Roberts supports West Linn resident's bid for Clackamas County clerk

Catherine McMullen of West Linn has been endorsed in her campaign to be Clackamas County's next clerk by former Gov. Barbara Roberts, who in 1990 became the first woman to be elected governor in Oregon history.

Roberts — who championed equal rights for women, gay people and those with disabilities during her tenures as Secretary of State and a member of the Oregon House — commended McMullen on her voter outreach and education efforts.COURTESY PHOTO: PATRICK BARTON - Catherine McMullen.

"I trust Catherine to be my clerk and head election official," Roberts, a Lake Oswego resident, said in a statement released Tuesday, Feb, 22, praising McMullen as a candidate who "deeply understands how to run transparent and equitable elections."

McMullen will be entering the May 2022 primary election having conducted 15 elections as an Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC)-certified elections administrator for Multnomah County, where she also serves as program specialist. She started Multnomah County's Voter Education and Outreach program, the state's only local government program of its kind, in 2015. She recently founded a new voter-engagement effort dedicated to eliminating barriers to voter access, Clackamas Voice, in June 2021.

Roberts told Pamplin Media Group that she believes McMullen has "all of the credentialing that anybody could ask for in a county clerk."

"I think she stands ready in her home county now to step forward and offer her services, her experience and her talent to that office and I feel very confident that she is a person who will give full service to all of the citizens of this county, making sure they can vote and that the system works fairly and easily for the access of citizens in Clackamas County."

Clackamas County's clerk, a nonpartisan position held by Sherry Hall since 2003, is responsible for conducting elections and keeping public records. McMullen remains the only candidate campaigning for the position and has been fundraising since July.

McMullen said that her main goals as clerk are increasing voter registration access and capacity, as well as providing education around how local elections work and creating opportunities for public participation, such as volunteering and serving on public boards.

McMullen and Roberts are both mothers of children with autism, and McMullen said her pursuit of the clerk position has been greatly inspired by Roberts' groundbreaking achievements — including successfully lobbying for the nation's first state law guaranteeing educational rights to people with developmental disabilities in 1971 after school officials told her that her oldest son, Mike, would have to go into an institution because he was considered "severely emotionally disturbed" and there was no educational plan for students with autism.PMG FILE PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts

"I said: 'This is not OK, I'm a citizen, I pay my taxes, I want my child to have an education,'" Roberts said. "So I went to the legislature as a single mother with two boys, and working a full-time job at the time. I went to the legislature as a citizen, unpaid in lobbying, for my son's right to a public education."

"I learned then, that one person, if their cause was just, could step forward and change the whole system for the better," Roberts added. "From that day forward, I spent a good deal of my spare time before I was ever elected to office, working on issues that brought equity and fairness to everyone."

"For me, Gov. Roberts is the example of what it means to be a good public servant," McMullen said. "She ran for office for her child, and when I have considered running for office at times, I was thinking, I have my hands full. I have two children, one of whom is autistic and requires more support than neurotypical kids. How can I possibly run for office? And then you have Gov. Roberts as an example."

As governor from 1991-95, Roberts appointed 54 judges — including the first two Latinos, the first Chinese-American, five gay and lesbian people, and the most women to that time. She also named about 800 women and 300 people of color among 2,000 appointments to state boards and commissions.

Roberts was also prominent in the opposition to anti-gay rights ballot measures that voters rejected in 1992 and '94. The Oregon Citizens Alliance, which sponsored those measures, led one of the three efforts during her term to force a recall election, but none succeeded in qualifying for a statewide vote.

McMullen has promised that as clerk she will officiate weddings for all couples, including same sex marriages. Hall stopped performing any marriage ceremonies after the state legalized gay marriage in 2014.

Roberts said: "It's time to get a real professional in there who does the whole job, all of the job, and I think Catherine is a person that can do that," later adding: "If someone doesn't feel like they are able to perform a wedding ceremony for a gay couple, then they probably shouldn't be handling any of the responsibilities of the county clerk — you either do them all or you don't do any of them."

McMullen said it is fantastic to have Roberts' support and to know that she has an example to follow when it comes to public service and advocating for the rights of others.

She said her campaign has thus far raised nearly $25,000 and has amassed a lot of endorsements, including from local labor unions, community leaders and elected officials from state and local governments.

More information about McMullen is available on her website.

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