Editorial: Clarno is good pick for Secretary of State gig
Last week's pick of Bev Clarno to serve as Oregon Secretary of State is worthy of praise. In a nation beset by tribalism and partisan bickering, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has given a longtime Republican rival a worthy career-topper.
The announcement came about because Republican Dennis Richardson, who had been secretary of state, died Feb. 26 after battling brain cancer for almost a year. As governor, it fell to Brown to appoint the next Secretary of State.
But in doing so, Brown said she wanted to find someone who would fill the job well, but who wouldn't run for the position in 2020.
That's because, in Oregon, incumbents almost always win. If she had selected a person interested in campaigning for the job, Brown likely would have pre-selected next year's winner of the race. This way, whoever runs for either party will do so without the mantle of "incumbent," and will need to campaign to prove their merit.
If this sounds familiar, it's because Brown did the same thing in 2015. Back then, Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned his post amid a series of controversies. The Oregon Constitution says the secretary of state will replace a governor who cannot fill out his or her term, so Brown became governor. One of her first acts was to name Democrat Jean Atkins to replace her as secretary of state. Atkins was widely respected but she had no intention of running for the seat.
Brown could have promoted a "lean and hungry" Democrat that year, who likely would have won in 2016 with the "incumbent" moniker. Instead, no one was the incumbent and Republican Richardson won.
Brown received praise from both parties back then. She deserves the same praise today.
Clarno was a legislator from Redmond who served as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1997. She ran for state treasurer and lost. In 2000, she was elected to the Senate. She became Republican leader in 2003 when Democrats and Republicans had a 15-15 split.
The Democratic leader that year? Her counterpart was Brown. The two battled it out over many issues that year, in the evenly split Senate. But everyone who knew them knew they respected each other.
President George W. Bush appointed Clarno to serve as a regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2003.
It's worth nothing that four of the five state offices, which are elected by all Oregon voters, are held by women: Brown and Clarno; Ellen Rosenblum is attorney general; and Val Hoyle runs the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The only male on the list: Beaverton's Tobias Read is treasurer.
Clarno has lived nearly her entire life in Central Oregon, where she is a pig farmer and cattle rancher. She was no stranger to male-dominated jobs — on the farm or in the Legislature. When she ran for Speaker, she famously quipped, "I've raised 3,000 hogs and I've castrated 200 in a day. I think I'm tough enough to be speaker."
Tough enough to be secretary of state, too.
If even for just a couple of years.