SALEM, Ore. — One of the Democratic contenders for Oregon's Secretary of State announced that she would suspend her campaign on Monday, making vague reference to a story about her use of campaign funds.
Former state House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson posted the announcement to her campaign's Facebook early Monday afternoon.
Wow! I had a blast during the first few days of my Democracy Tour! We traveled to Medford, Bend, and Hood River to hear directly from communities about why this election matters to them and how we can work together to increase access to the ballot for everyone. #orpol pic.twitter.com/BwlYnrg5QJ— Jennifer Williamson (@Jennifer_for_OR) February 6, 2020
"Sadly, a story currently being pushed in the media is designed to question my use of campaign funds and unfairly attack my integrity," Williamson said. "Let me be clear, I have always followed Oregon campaign finance laws and fully reported all expenditures for travel and other expenses while fulfilling my responsibilities as House Democratic Majority Leader and fact-finding as a state legislator. In fact, I often used campaign dollars in place of taxpayer dollars."
While it was not immediately clear what story Williamson was referencing, Portland publication Willamette Week later said that it had been working a story regarding the politician's campaign expenditures.
"Politics is nothing new to me and I fully expected at least a few bruising fights over the course of this important election for Secretary of State," Williamson continued. "What I didn't expect was a baseless story that questions my integrity, that of my family, and the legal use of campaign funds. I won't allow my family to be put through this."
An article posted by the Willamette Week following Williamson's announcement did not go into further detail about the story in question. Public records do indicate that Williamson's campaign paid for more than $32,000 in airfare between March 2014 and August 2019, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported — which included trips to Europe, Asia, and Hawaii.
Williamson said that she would suspend her campaign ahead of the March 10 filing deadline, in hopes "that another truly progressive leader will be able to step into" the primary.
Current state Senator Mark Hass, 2018 Walden challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and former Marine officer Cameron Smith remain in the race for the Democratic nomination. Both Hass and McLeod-Skinner expressed a certain level of sympathy for Williamson in posts to social media following her announcement.
"I know today must be difficult for Jennifer Williamson," Hass said. "I wish her the best and hope she can return to public service someday."
"Jennifer Williamson has a tremendous track record of advocating for women, families, and criminal justice reform. Oregon is a better state for her work," McLeod-Skinner said.
Republican state Senator Kim Thatcher recently announced her candidacy for the Secretary of State post — the only Republican candidate so far. Thatcher launched her campaign at the latest "Timber Unity" rally in Salem, later indicating that she had received an endorsement from the group.
Secretary of State is currently the only statewide office in Oregon held by a Republican. The late Dennis Richardson was the last to win the seat through an election, and current Secretary Bev Clarno was appointed to fill the position following his death. Clarno, a former Republican Speaker of the House and Senator, came out of retirement to assume Richardson's role and has not filed to run for election in 2020.
"I'm excited to carry on Secretary Richardson's legacy of an accountable and transparent government for us all, regardless of political party," Thatcher said in a post last week.