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Mark Hass clings to narrowing lead in Oregon Secretary of State race

The senator maintains lead of roughly 2,000 votes over Shemia Fagan for the open statewide position

PMG FILE PHOTO - Mark Hass has a slim edge over his Democratic rivals in the bid to be Oregon's next Secretary of State. In a close race between two state senators, Mark Hass is holding a slight, but narrowing lead over Shemia Fagan for the Democratic nomination for Oregon secretary of state.

Mid-Wednesday results showed Hass with 36% of the votes, compared with 35.6% for Fagan and 28% for McLeod-Skinner.

The latest tally shows Hass' lead at just over 2,000 votes. That's a drop from election night when his cushion had been hovering at about 10,000 votes.

But even that smaller margin, should it hold, would be enough to avoid an automatic recount.

Oregon election rules trigger a recount if the difference in vote counts is 0.2% of the ballots cast for the two candidates. At this point, that means the margin would need to dip below 750 votes.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Kim Thatcher of Keizer jumped to a big lead against Dave Stauffer of Portland, who has run for governor as a Democrat and a Republican.

The race is open because Bev Clarno, the Republican incumbent appointed by Gov. Kate Brown after the 2019 death of Dennis Richardson, is not seeking a full term.

At least two others, former Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial — a former Republican state representative — and Willamette University professor Ken Smith have announced independent bids for the office in the Nov. 3 general election.

Fagan, a lawyer, is a state senator from Happy Valley who unseated Rod Monroe in a 2018 Democratic primary. She was in the House two terms and left in 2016 after having a second child.

Hass, an account executive and a former television news reporter, is a state senator from Beaverton who has been in the Legislature 20 years, except for a brief period in 2007.

McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer from Terrebonne in Central Oregon, was the 2018 nominee against Republican Rep. Greg Walden in Oregon's 2nd District, which covers 18 counties east of the Cascades plus most of Jackson and Josephine counties in Southern Oregon. She held Walden to 56%, his lowest total in 22 years in Congress; he is retiring this year.

Though there were some differences among them on some issues, Fagan campaigned largely as the outspoken candidate unafraid to take on the establishment — she unseated Monroe, largely based on his opposition to rent control legislation, and was the lone vote against Salem Democrat Peter Courtney for a ninth term as Senate president.

Hass campaigned as the most experienced candidate. He has sat on House and Senate revenue committees his entire tenure, and leads the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee.

McLeod-Skinner, who had no legislative experience, campaigned as the outsider who could bring rural and urban Oregon together.

Though Fagan got into the race less than two weeks before the March 10 filing deadline, she won the support of public employee unions preparing to support the candidacy of Jennifer Williamson of Portland, a former House majority leader. But Williamson withdrew from the race before the deadline over news disclosures that cast a shadow over her previous campaign spending.

As of Monday, Fagan had raised $733,000, more than Hass and McLeod-Skinner combined. Almost 90% of Fagan's money came from the political action committees of unions, the largest shares from Local 503 of Service Employees International Union ($184,714), Oregon Education Association ($115,275), and the national organization and Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($75,000 each).

Hass had raised about $350,000 this year, plus $200,000 last year. McLeod-Skinner had raised about $200,000, and transferred money from her congressional campaign committee.

Hass voted for and Fagan opposed 2019 legislation (Senate Bill 1049) that diverts some future public-pension contributions to shore up payments to current retirees. Public employee unions have challenged some provisions of that law, and the Oregon Supreme Court has set June 16 for oral arguments in that lawsuit.

pwong@pamoplinmedia.com

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