State Senator Shemia Fagan enters race for Oregon Secretary of State

Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, speaks to climate action protestors during a rally on the Capitol steps Tuesday over the Republican walkout. (Sam Stites/Oregon Capital Bureau)

Salem, OR — Another Democrat has entered the crowded race to become Oregon’s next Secretary of State.

On Thursday morning, State Senator Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, confirmed rumors that she was considering a campaign to succeed Secretary of State Bev Clarno.

Clarno was selected to replace Republican Dennis Richardson after he passed away early in 2019. She is not seeking the post.

Fagan, 38, represents parts of east Portland and northern Clackamas County. Her entrance comes weeks after former State Rep. Jennifer Williamson dropped out ahead of a story published by Willamette Week outlining allegations of exorbitant campaign spending.

Williamson said she was exiting the race ahead of the March 10 filing deadline “in the hope that another truly progressive leader will be able to step into this Democratic primary.”

Fagan seemingly fits that bill.

In a press release Thursday, Fagan said she intends to bring her “no-nonsense leadership and fighting spirit” to the job.

“I’ve spent my career as a civil rights attorney, a school board member, a Representative and a Senator breaking down barriers and making sure Oregonians know that, while we don’t always agree, I am always on their side,” Fagan said. “Now, I’m asking to do the same as Oregon’s Secretary of State.” 

Fagan will join State Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton; former Congressional candidate and attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner; and former Dept. of Consumer and Business Services agency head Cameron Smith in the May 19 Democratic primary.

One of the four will face with off with the Republican nominee in November, which at this point is likely to be State Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, who announced her candidacy two weeks ago, but has to yet to file with the Secretary of State’s office as of Thursday afternoon.

State campaign finance records as of Thursday showed that Hass raised $39,700 this year and has $221,000 cash on hand, McLeod-Skinner reported raising $67,600 and has $71,900 on hand. Smith has raised $58,400 in 2020 so far, but only $53,400 in his coffers. Neither Fagan or Thatcher have set up committees for the race yet, but their Senate PACs show Fagan has raised $7,500 this year with $13,700 in the bank and Thatcher has raised $71,000 and has $67,900 on hand.

Fagan entered the political sphere in 2011 when she won election to the David Douglas School Board. A year later she unseated Republican Patrick Sheehan to earn a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives over incumbent Republican Patrick Sheehan. In 2018 she ousted longtime east Portland Democrat Rod Monroe to become a State Senator.

Fagan is midway through her four-year term and would not have to give up her seat to run for Secretary of State.

A managing partner of the Portland office of HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, Fagan earned degrees from Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho and Lewis and Clark Law School. She’s been a fierce proponent of protections for renters and employees in the workplace. Last year she co-sponsored a bill to put paid postage on Oregon’s mail-in ballots in an attempt to remove barriers to voting.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, Fagan has not officially filed for the election as of Thursday afternoon, but in her press release she stated that she plans to officially launch her campaign once the short legislative session ends on March 8.  

Contact Reporter Sam Stites: [email protected] or 971-255-2480.