If you had asked him last week, Brad Avakian would have told you that he desired nothing more in the world than to show off his talents and dedication to the people of the Great State of Oregon by becoming its next secretary of state. Since then, his phone has rung, and it was the governor offering him the state labor commissioner job, which is being vacated. Oops! New theory.
Avakian's departure leaves the crowded field for the secretary of state position only slightly less crowded. We still have three state senators vying for the post, which I believe currently pays a princely $72,000 a year: Kate Brown, Rick Metsger, and Vicki Walker. Of the three, the most interesting is Walker, the Eugene firebrand. Her challenges to the Old Boy machine that has been running Oregon government for decades have been both refreshing and effective. We've made no secret of the fact that she's our favorite politician in the state.
Brown will have the full Democratic Party machinery behind her, and so it will be an uphill battle for Walker and Metsger. But this is a fairly low race on the ballot, and there's still a month and a half or so before the voting starts, and so anything could happen.
One thing Walker has done that's gotten some positive play is to put out a booklet with a set of platform promises in it. Of course, it also contains a good amount of bragging about things she's done in the Legislature, but it lays out some specific tasks that she says she'll undertake if she gets the secretary of state's post:
- Work to have the state "prohibit pass-through transfers of money from candidates, political parties, and leadership committees to other candidates and committees," on the ground that these practices impair transparency about who is truly financing campaigns.
- List the five largest contributors behind each initiative or referendum measure in the voters' pamphlet, and include in the pamphlet information about how to file a complaint alleging violations of the initiative and referendum rules.
- Refer a constitutional amendment to voters that would "prevent ballot measure racketeers like Bill Sizemore from filing any new ballot measures if they have repeat election law violations or unpaid fines for previous violations."
- Push for rotating regional Presidential primaries, so that Oregon isn't always one of the last to vote.
- As the state's auditor, "ask tough questions" to find out if tax subsidies to corporations and other business entities deliver public benefits as promised.
- Use federal Help America Vote Act funds to target minority and low-income folks for voter registration drives.
- Hand out voter registration forms to high school seniors at graduation.
There's more in there, including a swipe at the Lottery Commission (guess she couldn't resist), a promise to support stable funding for schools (which seems a little off-topic and sounds at least a bit sales tax-ish), a threat of criminal prosecutions for initiative process violations, and some inspiring words about "following the money" to root out waste, or worse, in government. The document pulls a few punches, and of course brief prayers must be offered for diversity and an end to global warming, but overall her screed is pretty bold in the specificity with which it addresses several issues.
Especially for the auditing side of the job, Walker is clearly the best choice. She's the only one of the candidates that the legion of Old Boy appointees in state jobs and on state boards will fear. The chances of Kate Brown or Rick Metsger aggressively pursuing neglect or wrongdoing in the state bureaucracy do not seem good. Particularly if she were teamed up with a new, no-nonsense attorney general, Walker would really make waves. Good waves.