Now That Kate Brown Is Oregon's Governor, Who Will Be Secretary of State?

by | February 17, 2015

By Ian K. Kullgren

Speculation is brewing over who will succeed Kate Brown as Oregon's next secretary of state when she becomes governor next week, replacing John Kitzhaber.

Under the state constitution, Brown has the power to appoint her successor. It's unknown whom she'll choose -- Brown addressed the media for less than 30 seconds Friday afternoon -- but privately, lawmakers are discussing whom they'd like to see fill the post.

Three Democrats, like Brown, are considered to be the leading contenders at the Capitol: House Majority Leader Val Hoyle of Eugene, Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum of Portland, and House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland.

Kotek, 48, is in her second term as speaker and known to have her own aspirations for governor.  Giving her a statewide post would help position for such a run in the future.  However, the change of leadership in the House during the legislative session could be disruptive.

Kotek is in her fourth House term and is a former policy director for Children First for Oregon.

Rosenbaum, 65, has been in the Legislature since 1999 and filled Brown's Senate seat in Portland after the latter was elected secretary of state.  She has been Senate majority leader since the fall of 2010.  She was active in union politics as a member of the Communications Workers of America and chaired the Oregon Commission for Women from 1993 to 1998.

Hoyle, who turned 51 on Saturday, is in her second term as majority leader.  She worked in the bicycle industry for several years and was a parent school activist in Eugene.

Kate Brown addresses media after Kitzhaber's resignation Hear Kate Brown's full statement to the media on Friday afternoon.

Any would require legislative Democrats -- or the entire House, if Kotek were chosen -- to elect new leaders. None of the three could be reached for comment.

The secretary of state's job was last filled by appointment in 1999 when Gov. John Kitzhaber picked a former state Senate colleague, Bill Bradbury, to the post to fill the vacancy created when Phil Keisling resigned.  Keisling had first been appointed to the job in 1991 after then-Secretary of State Barbara Roberts was elected governor in 1990.

At the time, Keisling was a little-known state representative who had served just a little over one term.

The secretary of state is Oregon's top elections official. And unlike in most states, the Oregon secretary of state is also responsible for auditing public account spending, and serves as the state's chief archivist.

The position is considered a stepping stone for those aspiring to become governor, a U.S. representative or senator.

(c)2015 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)