OPINION: We need an Secretary of State who focuses on accountability
Four years ago, Oregonians across all parties elected Dennis Richardson, the most conservative Republican on the ballot, as our Secretary of State because they understood that after years of government program failures, Dennis would provide much-needed accountability.
In two short years we benefited from Dennis's service to Oregon, shining a light on agency failures that directly impact families. Audits revealed that public schools in Portland are failing children of color. We learned the state health agency mismanaged Medicaid for impoverished Oregonians. Finally, by auditing the Department of Environmental Quality to hold it accountable for a lack of air quality management, the Legislature directed more dollars to help Portlanders breathe better by enforcing laws against big polluters.
This is what the Secretary of State's job is all about – helping Oregon families live better lives by ensuring state government is accountable to the people. Carrying on Dennis's mission to be a counterweight to government overreach is my top priority, and it's never been more critical.
Look around us. We've spent this year riding a roller coaster of COVID-19 executive orders by Gov. Kate Brown that shuttered businesses, crashed our economy and forced around 600,000 school children and their parents into an educational nightmare.
We've seen wildfires rip across the state where people died because the warning system, which we were told in 2018 was ready and working, didn't work. Over a hundred nights of protesting, rioting and destruction in Portland has been mismanaged by our government, to the detriment of the business community, Black residents and families.
Something has to give. It starts with electing a Secretary of State who's not beholden to out-of-state special interests, local power brokers and politicians like Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Voters thinking critically about this election can't possibly believe my opponent, Shemia Fagan, will hold Brown or her state agencies accountable when Brown has contributed $50,000 to her campaign and public unions have spent over a million dollars trying to buy favoritism from Fagan.
My opponent doesn't want to shine a light on government failings, calling them "gotcha audits". Audits like these can bring to light the racial disparity problems with Portland Schools, or abuses in our Medicaid system and how broken our foster care system has become. I will continue the legacy of the late Secretary Richardson and be a check on areas of state government that aren't serving the people.
The most important audit I can accomplish in 2021 will be to understand where our $9 billion education budget is going at a time when kids are logging into school from their kitchen table. We know that students are only getting a few hours per week of instructional time. Children with disabilities aren't being served their federally required education plans. Many families don't have reliable internet. Students in urban Portland who depend on social safety net services that schools provide have unmet needs. Our education dollars are not reaching our kids and I'll get to the bottom of it.
As Secretary of State, I will prioritize establishing a permanent team of state auditors to audit public school outcomes, education spending, and compliance with state and federal education laws. For every month a child falls behind, it takes at least two months to catch up. It's been eight months since kids have seen the inside of a classroom. It's going to require an honest assessment through audits to ensure we don't leave a generation of kids behind.
Oregonians also deserve to know that a Secretary of State with an independent mindset will run fair and transparent elections. In this campaign, Fagan has received nearly $2 million in special interest money, including $100,000 from a partisan redistricting group.
More than 30% has come from out-of-state donors. They intend to influence how Oregon lawmakers are elected and skew legislative boundaries to favor a single political party. I've taken no such contributions, and my commitment to an independent redistricting commission is one reason why I earned the cross-nomination of the Independent Party of Oregon.
This November, Oregonians should demand that we have checks and balances on state government. We deserve a Secretary of State who works for honest elections, a Corporation Division that promotes a healthy economy, truth-seeking audits, and open public records. That's the bar that Dennis Richardson set for us before he died. It's a promise I will keep.
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