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Thatcher announces run for secretary of state

The Keizer lawmaker becomes the first Republican to enter the race to replace Bev Clarno.

JAIME VALDEZ/PORTLAND TRIBUNE - Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, announced Thursday that she is running for secretary of state.SALEM — Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, announced during a massive Timber Unity rally at the Capitol Thursday that she is running for secretary of state.

Thatcher, who previously served in the House, has been in the Senate since 2015.

Secretary of State Bev Clarno, the Republican incumbent, isn't running for the office. She was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to replace Dennis Richardson, who died last year.

Richardson was the first Republican to win a statewide office since 2002.

"I want to focus on what Dennis Richardson focused on when he became secretary of state," Thatcher said. "He did a lot to make sure we have fair elections, make sure we have access for everyone to the ballot initiative and referendum process, and to not use the Corporations Division to punish businesses, but help them succeed. Those are going to be my focus."

Thatcher's campaign website promises "Accountability. Transparency. Integrity." The secretary of state oversees state elections, audits government programs and registers businesses. Oregon has no lieutenant governor, so its secretary of state is second in line to the governor.

In 2014, allegations surfaced against Thatcher's family business, KT Contracting and Highway Specialties LLC, that the company committed contract fraud while subcontracting a state highway job in Eugene back in 2005.

"Absolutely, I learned from that experience," Thatcher said. "I've worked in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and it's unacceptable to me that Oregon is one of the hardest places to work and be a business owner. I'd like to use the Corporations Division, especially the small-business ombudsman we opened a few years ago to help (businesses) with technical assistance and to get over the hurdles of red tape and all that. "

Thatcher is the first Republican to enter the race. The filing deadline is March 10 ahead of the May 19 primary.

Four Democrats are vying for their party's nomination: Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, former House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson of Portland, former Congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Cameron Smith, who most recently was the head of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: cwithycombe@eomediagroup.com or 971-304-4148.

Reporter Sam Stites: sstites@pamplinmedia.com.