Election aftermath: Oregon's state executive races

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May 16, 2012

By Ballotpedia's state executive team

SALEM, OR: Quality over quantity was the dominant theme at Oregon's state executive primaries on May 15. The relatively quiet affair consisted of two contested races - the Democratic primaries for attorney general and secretary of state.

Secretary of State

Incumbent Kate Brown (D) garnered over 90% of the vote, against perennial candidate Paul Damian Wells.

Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngKate Brown 91.1% 277,052
Paul Damian Wells 8.4% 25,568
Write-ins 0.5% 1,400
Total Votes 304,020
Election Results via OregonLive 2012 Primary Results.


Attorney General

The current attorney general, John Kroger (D), is retiring to become the president of Reed College. Ellen Rosenblum, a retired Appeals Court Judge and Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, easily defeated Dwight Holton, the former head of the U.S. Attorney's Oregon Office and a former acting U.S. Attorney.

Oregon Attorney General Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngEllen Rosenblum 64.4% 197,366
Dwight Holton 35.4% 108,356
Write-in votes 0.2% 614
Total Votes 306,336
Election Results via Oregon Live.


With 3 incumbents seeking re-election and Democratic secretary of state Kate Brown's almost 90 point win[3] over challenger Paul Damian Wells surprising nobody, the spotlight was trained on the heavily hyped attorney general race between retired Appeals Court Judge Ellen Rosenblum and former acting U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton. The long season of campaigning for both candidates, which began after incumbent attorney general John Kroger announced last year that he would not run for a second term,[4] paid off famously for Rosenblum, who defeated Holton 63% to 37% for the party's nomination.[3] The general consensus is that Rosenblum's enthusiastic embrace of Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act, compared to Holton's admittedly conflicted stance on the issue, tipped the scales in her favor, and ultimately decided the election.[5]

Rosenblum's nomination yesterday is distinctly noteworthy for three reasons:

First, the Republican's failure to produce a 2012 nominee makes her the presumptive general election victor. Secondly, Rosenblum would be the first woman attorney general in Oregon's history. Lastly, Kroger is rumored to be retiring 6 months short of his term's official expiration date to start a new job as President of Reed College.[6]. Depending on Gov. Kitzhaber's still unrealized plan for handling the premature transition, Rosenblum could take office as early as July.[7]

Although four state executive offices are up for election in Oregon this year, a new election law stipulates that one - the race for labor commissioner - will not be on the ballot until the November general election.[8] The law was created in 2009 to guarantee that every election featured at least one state executive race on the ballot. Having initially prepared for a May election, the two candidates vying to be Oregon's labor commissioner were stunned to discover in March that they would have to wait until November for closure. The misunderstanding incensed State Senator Bruce Starr enough that he sued secretary of state Brown for neglecting to inform either candidate of the date change. Starr stirred the pot further by accusing Brown of conspiracy and party favoritism; Starr's opponent, incumbent Commissioner Brad Avakian, is a Democrat, like Brown.[9]

Looking forward to the fall, Democratic incumbent treasurer Ted Wheeler, who was first appointed and then elected to a partial term in 2010, is poised to enter into his first full, four-year term in the office. Wheeler was unopposed in the primary and faces no serious general election challengers. Also, the race for labor commissioner will get its overcooked moment at the polls November 6, when Oregon voters choose between Starr and Avakian.

Finally, Democratic nominee Kate Brown will face Republican challenger Knute Buehler in the general election for secretary of state. Buehler was the only GOP candidate to file for a state executive official race this year.[10]

See also


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