In Our Opinion: Devlin for secretary of state
Candidate's formidable knowledge of state operations makes him the ideal man for the job
When Democrat Barbara Roberts was sworn in as secretary of state in January 1985, it ended a 106-year run of Republicans holding the job.
We doubt the Democrats will match that streak, but they certainly are in the favored position to retain the office for another four years, after keeping it for the past two decades.
So this years hotly contested Democratic primary race could very well determine who takes over the states second-highest elective post in January.
In a contest that features three qualified candidates and that presented us with, perhaps, our most difficult decision of this election season, our pick is state Sen. Richard Devlin.
The position has two primary functions: overseeing the operations of state audits, and elections. Devlin is well-positioned to do both.
The 63-year-old state senator from Tualatin is not known for boasting, so when he quietly says he may have the broadest understanding of Oregon state government of any candidate in recent memory, you can bet that its true. And, it is.
Devlin, a former Tualatin city councilor and Metro councilor, won a state House seat in 1996 before jumping to the Senate in 2002. Since then, the retired legal investigator has consistently rated as excellent in Willamette Weeks biennial ranking of metro area lawmakers and has, for the past two editions, received the very top mark from colleagues, staffers, lobbyists and Salem observers.
His two-decade tenure in Salem includes 12-plus years on the joint Ways and Means Committee, where the states budgets are written. He currently is one of the co-chairpersons, and he also chaired the subcommittees dealing with funding of natural resources, education and capital bonding.
That immersion into the functions of state government would serve him well in handling the audit function of the office.
Devlin also had a hand in crafting Oregons vote-by-mail law on online voter registration, demonstrating a longtime interest in the election process and a commitment to boosting voter participation.
Devlin is being challenged by two other strong candidates.
Brad Avakian, 55, has already won statewide office as labor commissioner.
The Beaverton civil rights lawyer was elected to the Oregon House in 2002, won a state Senate seat in 2006 and was preparing a run for secretary of state in 2008 when then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed him to fill the Bureau of Labor and Industries post vacated by Dan Gardner.
His designs on Oregons 1st Congressional district were foiled by Suzanne Bonamici, who trounced him in the 2011 Democratic primary.
Avakian says he would use the statewide office to push a variety of issues, including promotion of solar power, which he says is related to the positions duties on the three-member state lands board. That might make him an activist secretary of state.
Devlin counters that hes as concerned about the effects of climate change as anyone, but that that statutory role of the board is very narrow: overseeing the Department of State Lands, which is tasked with managing about 2 million acres of publicly owned parcels for the greatest benefit of the people.
We share Avakians concerns over climate change, but agree with Devlin that working on that issue would be more effective from another office.
The third candidate, Val Hoyle, has less government experience, but is impressive nonetheless. The 52-year-old sales manager and education advocate from Eugene was appointed to the state House in 2009 and has kept her post through three elections. Representing a downstate district that includes a chunk of rural land, Hoyle would bring a valuable perspective to the statewide office. But she, too, is unable to match Devlins deep knowledge of state operations.
Any of these three would be a formidable Democratic candidate for secretary of state, but Devlins resume and temperament make him best-suited for the job.