By ANDREW SELSKY Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In Oregon, the 2020 election season is officially underway.
Thursday marked the first day for major party or nonpartisan candidates to file declarations of candidacy with the secretary of state's office.
One of the top state races is for secretary of state, the second-highest statewide office after the governor and currently held by a Republican.
Filing papers as Democratic candidate for that office was Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who in 2018 tried to unseat Republican Rep. Greg Walden who represents a U.S. congressional district that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016. McLeod-Skinner lost but came closer than any Democratic challenger to Walden has in past elections.
State Sen. Mark Hass, a Democrat and veteran of the Legislature, also submitted candidacy documents for secretary of state. The office-holder is next in line to be governor and is in charge of elections, government audits and has other key functions.
Secretary of State Bev Clarno urged Oregonians to run for an office. Her office said there have been few candidates in recent elections, which restricted voters' choices.
Either no one filed to run, or only one person filed, in 92% of state representative seats in the 2018 primary, Clarno's office said. In 85% of state senate seats, either no one filed to run or only one person filed.
"As a lifelong volunteer, and serving in the Legislature and now as secretary of state, there is only one way to change things. I urge you to get involved and run for an office," Clarno said.
In the last election, Democrats won a supermajority in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature. Still, they lacked the numbers to produce a quorum by themselves in the senate, which Republicans took advantage of by staging two walkouts to push their agenda.
Democratic Party of Oregon Chairwoman KC Hanson said Democrats are looking to capitalize on Trump's record and dissatisfaction over the GOP boycotts.
"In Oregon, we'll be focused on re-electing our Oregon Democrats and on taking back the secretary of state's office," Hanson said. No Republicans had declared their candidacy for the office as of Friday afternoon.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, is thus far the only candidate to declare for that office.
Other Oregon offices up for a vote include state treasurer, 16 of 30 state senate seats and all 60 state representative seats.
Oregonians will also be voting for president, U.S. senator and U.S. representative. Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who at one point was pondering a bid for the presidency, has said he'll run for re-election instead but did not immediately file papers.
Campaign websites and social media accounts for candidates have sprung up on the internet, as candidates strive to get their messages directly to voters.
McLeod-Skinner declared in her Twitter account that she won't accept campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies because of the opioid epidemic in Oregon. She challenged others to do the same.
Hass, for his part, on Facebook touted his role in the Legislature's passage this session of a new tax on large Oregon businesses to boost school funding.
"Critics said it was impossible. But we did it," Hass said in a video, promising to bring that passion and experience to the secretary of state's job.
Clarno was appointed secretary of state to fill out the remaining term of Dennis Richardson, who died of cancer, under the agreement she won't be a candidate in 2020.