Q&A: Secretary of state candidates answer our questions

Oregon’s next secretary of state faces the ongoing challenge of restoring confidence in the agency and in the state’s electoral process while implementing new campaign finance limits passed by this year’s Legislature.

The current secretary of state, LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who was appointed by Gov. Tina Kotek in June after the resignation of Shemia Fagan, is not running for the job. Instead, two leading Democrats are seeking the position along with six others, including three Republicans.

Along with running elections and preparing for new campaign finance limits before they take effect in 2027, the Secretary of State’s Office audits state agencies and programs. The next secretary of state will try to bring stability to an office that has seen a lot of turnover in recent years. None of the three most recently elected secretaries of state finished their terms: Fagan resigned, Dennis Richardson died in office and Kate Brown succeeded former Gov. John Kitzhaber when he resigned.

The Capital Chronicle asked each candidate the same five questions. One of the Republicans, state Sen. Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls, did not respond to our questions or interview requests. He is barred from serving another legislative term because he had more than nine unexcused absences last year during the Republican boycott in the Senate. Brent Barker, another Republican candidate, also did not respond to our questionnaire, nor did Democrat James Manning, while another Democratic candidate, Paul D. Wells, declined to participate. 

We are profiling the two top runners in the case – Manning and Tobias Read, also a Democrat – and publishing the answers to our five questions that we received from the candidates: Democrats Read, Jim Crary and Dave Stauffer, and, in a separate section, Tim McCloud, the sole Republican who responded.

Here are their answers.

Democratic candidates

Q. What in your background would make you the best secretary of state for Oregon right now?


Jim Crary (Campaign photo)
 Jim Crary (Campaign photo)

I believe that I am the only person running who has actually stated what I intend to do when elected and shared my number (541-531-2912). Specifically, I would add a new tab, on the SOS’s website, that would allow any registered voter to easily ask questions of any or all of the candidates that the voter can vote for. I call this new tab an electronic candidate forum (“ECF”).

In an election, voters are “hiring” someone to represent them. So, an election should be like a job interview, conducted by the voters, and the ECF will be the mechanism through which voters will conduct it (the interview).

With the ECF:

  • Voters could ask candidate(s) questions from any internet connected device.
  • All questions & answers would be:
  • Open for everyone to see
  • Kept for future reference and accountability.

My education (business undergraduate and a law degree)

My work experience (14 years as a government attorney; 17 years of writing, negotiating and administering contracts; seven years as a supervisor).

That I am:

  • Very good at asking probing questions and looking at new things with an outsider’s perspective.
  • Always looking for a better way to work.
  • Conscientious about having the facts before I speak or act.
  • A quick study on learning new things.
  • Gritty.
  • A firm believer that technology and attitudes are changing quickly so the importance of evolving and adapting to changing circumstances and/or new information cannot be over emphasized.


I served from 2007 to 2017 in the Oregon State House, where I helped lead the effort to fund full-day kindergarten and strengthened Oregon’s rainy day fund. 

I learned a lot as a legislator, but it’s my experience as a statewide leader that distinguishes me in this race. 

Tobias Read (Campaign photo)
 Tobias Read (Campaign photo)

As treasurer, I have a proven track record of helping Oregonians save for their futures. We expanded the Oregon College Savings Plan that helps families find new ways to save for college through innovative programs. We expanded Oregon College Savings Plan outreach to include options for trade school and apprenticeships. We created and implemented OregonSaves, the nation’s first state-based opt-out IRA, allowing Oregonians to save for retirement if their work doesn’t offer a retirement plan. 

For more than 7 years, I’ve led Treasury’s staff of nearly 200 people, managing $130-plus billion dollars of investments, tens of billions of dollars of state debt and hundreds of thousands of retirement and college savings accounts. I believe better decisions are made when diverse voices are at the table, so I’m proud that we’ve nearly tripled the proportion of people of color working at Treasury since 2017. And a majority of my core management team are women or people of color or both. 

I know how to lead a state agency and set the culture from the top. From day one, I will set a culture of accountability, transparency, and diligence in the Secretary of State’s office.  

Dave Stauffer (campaign photo)
 Dave Stauffer (campaign photo)


The Oregon secretary of state is also the chair of the Board of Sustainability and Environment. I have four environment-saving patented inventions that provide practical, workable, affordable, scientific, profit-making inventions that will attract private investment to save Oregon’s environment. No other candidate has any environmental solutions.

Q. Name three things you would do to restore the reputation of the Secretary of State’s Office?


Transparency is critical to increasing public trust. At Treasury, we’ve found ways to be more transparent, like a website making the thousands of votes we cast annually at corporate board meetings publicly available and searchable. At the Secretary of State’s office, I will look for ways to increase transparency. 

Additionally, I will make two immediate changes to how the Secretary of State’s audits are conducted. 

First, I will make it clear that decisions about which agencies or programs to audit are driven by data, not political agendas. Just like the audit team that I lead at Treasury, the auditors will know that they are free to go where the data tells them to. 

Second, I will involve front-line workers and everyday Oregonians who use the services of those being audited. At Treasury, we learned that most people using a college savings plan tended to be wealthy white urban dwellers. To learn how we could make the program more accessible and beneficial for low-income families, we worked with agencies serving marginalized communities and we listened to the public. We took what we learned to the Legislature and advocated for a change in policy. Now, the tax credit is refundable, meaning that either your tax bill goes down, or your refund goes up. Ensuring that front-line workers and the people who are impacted by the agency being audited are included in every audit will lead to better outcomes, which will, over time, help to restore confidence in the Secretary of State’s office. 


I would not accept any outside employment from any organization regulated by the Secretary of State’s Office. I would be present in my office to supervise the audit staff and ensure that all funds are spent for the purposes intended by the Legislature. I would audit to ensure that no budgets are overspent and that no budgets are underspent.


Build the ECF (please see my answer above) and personally promote it by speaking at as many Oregon high schools as I can (because if you can get a young person to ask a question they are going to vote (and vote informed)).

I will request to meet directly with all 36 county clerks at one of the two Oregon Association of County Clerks (“OACC”) annual meetings. The reason for meeting with the OACC is  because county clerks are “where the rubber meets the road” in the election process.

The purpose of such a meeting would be to:

  • Get their buy-in on the ECF.
  • Establish a close and collaborative working relationship with the OACC to both implement the ECF and to resolve election/voting complaints.
  • Listen to the clerks regarding what kind of issues their election workers are facing and then to discuss with them what I, as secretary of state, can do to support both them and their election workers.

Too often, after someone gets elected, it becomes very difficult to talk to them directly. So, I will, daily, when I am in the office, personally answer at least one phone call to the Secretary of State’s Office. Imagine what a caller is going to think when instead of an interactive voice response system that uses prerecorded voice prompts and touch-tone keypad selections to interact with callers the caller instead going to hear, “Hi, this is Secretary of State, Jim Crary, how may I help you?”

Q. Recent data indicates that as many as one in five Oregonians and half of Republican voters don’t have faith in the state’s elections. How will you restore trust in elections?


I would audit the county elections offices and ensure that they have sufficient security staff to prevent any physical interferences with elections as well as any cybersecurity interferences with elections.


By adding the new nonpartisan ECF tab (it’s nonpartisan as it cuts neither left nor right but only engenders better government) on the SOS’s website so any registered voter will be able to easily question those who seek to represent them. As voters increase their use of, and reliance on, the ECF tab political campaigns will become responsive/interactive, informative/educational and substantive. Voters will actually want to participate in the electoral process (instead of dreading elections). Most importantly when voters start using the ECF to decide who to vote for we will get more elected officials who have plans to actually address the problems we face!

By working closely and collaboratively with the county clerk where an alleged election related complaint emanated from, to promptly, and fully, investigate the complaint and then post the results of the investigation on the SOS’s website. By fostering such an open, transparent, evidence-based dialogue and conclusion between the SOS’s office and the public any mistrust in the integrity of our vote-by-mail system will hopefully be dispelled. If there is substance to any complaint my office will post, on the SOS’s website, what steps we are taking to address and correct the problem.

By encouraging such direct and transparent civic participation and engagement in the electoral process review and by addressing any allegations in a prompt and open manner hopefully false allegations will be effectively and quickly quashed, substantive allegations acted upon, and trust in our electoral process will be maintained (or restored).


Oregon is a national leader in fair, transparent, accessible elections. But if people don’t believe the system is fair, they may choose not to vote.There are several steps we could take to restore trust in elections in Oregon. 

First, I will strive to be visible and present as secretary of state, and invite Oregonians to participate. One policy I would like to pursue takes a page from law enforcement’s practice of “ride alongs.” In California, one election office offers ride alongs of election processes, including picking up ballots from drop boxes and the processing of ballots. When people can see firsthand the number of precautions that are taken to ensure election security, they will have more confidence in our elections systems. This is a long-term effort, but we need to be taking steps to change the culture. 

Establishing strong relationships with Oregon’s 36 county clerks will be critical to restoring public trust in the Secretary of State’s Office. I will Involve county clerks as we investigate ways to make the office more transparent and accountable. During this campaign, I have met with 24 county clerks already, learning about issues that they have faced and how they can be better supported by the Secretary of State’s Office. Being a vocal advocate for the clerks and the resources they need to conduct our elections securely and transparently is a key role I intend to fulfill, and one that will over time, lead to increased faith in the system by community members. 

Q. How will you choose which agencies or programs to audit as secretary of state?


As secretary of state, I want to restore trust in our state government by planning and conducting audits that are driven by data rather than political considerations. It’s important to conduct audits fairly and without a predetermined agenda because at their core, audits are an important tool to ensure that government agencies are spending taxpayer dollars wisely and getting the outcomes they’ve promised. Audits should help government better serve the people. Two key questions we should keep in mind when planning an audit schedule are: Where are we spending the most money, and what directly impacts the most people’s lives? 


While all audits are important, the audits that I will focus on are:

Financial audits:

Each year, the division conducts the Statewide Single Audit. This includes an annual audit of the state of Oregon’s financial statements and the state’s internal controls and compliance with federal program requirements. This audit is #1 on my list because it is required to be conducted for Oregon to receive billions of dollars in annual federal assistance.

Information technology audits:

IT audits play a critical role in helping the state maintain the security, compliance, and efficiency of its IT environments while mitigating risks and ensuring the integrity of data and operations.

IT audits are conducted to:

Assess the security posture of an department’s IT systems and infrastructure. By conducting audits, we can identify vulnerabilities, gaps in security policies, and areas where improvements are needed to enhance security. By assessing risks related to data breaches, system failures, or other IT-related issues, we can implement appropriate controls and measures to reduce the likelihood and impact of such risks.

Help validate data integrity controls and identify any issues that may compromise the integrity of data stored within IT systems.

Assess the readiness of departments to respond to and recover from IT-related disruptions such as cyberattacks, natural disasters, or hardware failures.

Performance audits:

Performance audits are done to improve public accountability. Performance audits generally address whether agencies are operating economically, efficiently, effectively, and equitably and are important to ensure that tax dollars are being well spent.


I will monitor watchdog organizations like newspapers and publications of local political groups. I will open all messages to my office that identify elections interferences.

Q. How do you plan to address the large backlog of election-related complaints?


There are two areas to investigate in order to tackle the backlog of election-related campaign complaints: priorities and resources. Since a well-functioning democracy is at the core of everything else we want to do as a state, clearing the backlog of election-related complaints should be a top priority of the agency. 

I would tackle it much like I did the issue of unclaimed property. When I started at Treasury, unclaimed property did not exist at Treasury. We have made dramatic improvements in how much time it takes for someone to get their money – we got the backlog down from 13 months to five. But more importantly, we changed it to automatically sending a check to people if we know a person has a claim. And we discovered that once we improved the system, more people started using it. 

The more people who have a positive interaction with our elections, the more people will decide to vote and participate in our democracy. Just as I did with unclaimed property, we can take that same approach in our elections system. We have to get the nuts and bolts right. That’s one of the reasons I think I am the best candidate. I know how to turn complex, really important policy into results that people can feel. If we are going to get serious about restoring trust in elections, we must demonstrate that we can fairly and quickly adjudicate election-related complaints.


I will supervise my audit staff to address all complaints.


To deal with the ever-increasing number of election complaints I would do the following:

  • Ensure that clear and transparent procedures are in place for submitting, investigating, and resolving election complaints. Post these procedures on the SOS’s website so that everyone understands how complaints will be handled.
  • Conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into each complaint. That means gathering relevant evidence, interviewing witnesses, and examining election procedures to determine the validity of the complaint.
  • Institute a triage system so that the most serious complaints are dealt with first. That does not mean that more trivial complaints won’t be addressed, it just means they will not be placed on the top of the pile.
  • Increase the number of full-time staffers investigating complaints or if that is not possible try to add temporary staff to address the backlog.
  • Include county clerks whenever a complaint can be identified as emanating from a particular county.
  • If there is substance to any claim post, on the SOS’s website, what steps we are taking to address and correct the problem.
  • Keep complainants informed regarding the progress of complaint investigations and the outcome(s) of the resolution process.
  • Work with OACC to provide training and education for election officials and poll workers to prevent common issues that may lead to complaints (e.g., such as misunderstandings about voting procedures or eligibility requirements).
  • Use feedback from the OACC and election complaints to identify areas for improvement in electoral processes and procedures.

Republican candidate

Tim McCloud is the sole Republican who answered our questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. What in your background would make you the best secretary of state for Oregon right now?

Tim McCloud (Campaign photo)
 Tim McCloud (Campaign photo)


I have career experience in the governmental, nonprofit and businesses sectors, which includes small business ownership. I have an education background in Small City Management and Public Administration, and have also chaired several government commissions and committees. I have worked with and managed staff and facilities for Oregon’s most vulnerable populations. This includes foster youth, as well as both child and adult homeless populations; intellectual and developmentally disabled individuals; behaviorally-challenged individuals; and youth in the court systems. I currently work in business development and information systems management. 

Additionally, I have no ties to foreign or special interests. Because of this perspective, I can operate without bias and would not face any conflicts of interests, as other candidates typically do. I am someone who can absolutely identify with the hardships of everyday people across the entire state. I am someone who is prepared to lead the Secretary of State’s Office, while advocating for, and listening to the needs of our local constituencies before foreign and special interests. I am also someone who believes in the values of dedication, commitment, hard work, and integrity. These are also the values that represent the many other Oregonian families and individuals that I meet, as well as ones that I know personally. 

Q. Name three things you would do to restore the reputation of the Secretary of State’s Office.


In this situation, we need someone who can lead innovation and set higher expectations for exceptional stewardship of taxpayer dollars, while holding the line and getting things accomplished for Oregon. I believe the ‘game of politics’ will prevent other candidates from doing the same. I’ve spoken to thousands of people who want to see solutions to the issues plaguing our state. Three things that must be done to restore the reputation of the Secretary of State’s office are: 1) restore accountability, 2) address all outstanding complaints, related to Oregon elections, and 3) review the entire voter system for potential vulnerabilities, as well as for other areas for improvement. 

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the other candidates possess the type of focus or resilience required to address these challenges. It isn’t pretty to say, but wars aren’t won by walking away from the lines of battle. This means that the right candidate is going to follow through and challenge Oregon’s overgrown agencies and systems; meaning the ones that burden the daily lives of Oregonians, via antiquated, costly, and even corruptible practices. 

Q. Recent data indicates that as many as one in five Oregonians and half of Republican voters don’t have faith in the state’s elections. How will you restore trust in elections?


Poor statewide executive leadership created these issues, and is at the root of all public mistrust and allegations of fraud. It is clear that under the previous administrations of Kate Brown and Shemia Fagan, there were significant ethical concerns. In addition to their former respective roles as the secretary of state, both Fagan and Brown are licensed attorneys. This should be disconcerting for most Oregonians, as attorneys should be held to the highest standards for ethical behavior. In my opinion, as leading government officials elected by the public of Oregon, Fagen and Brown operated with as little ethical consideration for the public as possible. 

As far as I am aware, some tensions seem to arise from a segment of public perspective that believes the Secretary of State’s Office is delaying the release of pertinent election information and failing to ensure security of public voting systems in a variety of ways. This must change. In addition to closing down costly and inefficient Al surveillance programs, we will conduct a thorough review of the voting system and all infrastructure; ensuring total security of our elections process. I think we should also be looking at opportunities to open in-person voting centers, and taking other common sense measures to secure our election process. I believe that we can turn the tide on this shameful past, and move in a much better direction. 

Q. How will you choose which agencies or programs to audit as secretary of state?


Poor government stewardship and waste have a direct effect on inflation and increased costs; such as those on business, as well as on the family and individual; which is seeing increased costs in the forms of more expensive fuel, groceries, entertainment, healthcare, housing, and more. Oregonians want a government that can operate sensibly and justly on behalf of us all. Within the context of the Secretary of State’s Office, audits are a beneficial tool to ensure that government spending is not wasteful or fraudulent. 

Under normal circumstances, it would be reasonable to assume that any audit processes which are initiated, should begin internally within the Secretary of State’s Office itself. However, this aside, I won’t be announcing any preemptive declarations regarding the Oregon Audits Division at this time. What is important, is for Oregonians to know that under a Tim McCloud administration, the Office of the Secretary of State will increase our mechanisms for transparency; investigating inquiries and confronting all evidence of corruption, waste, and misuse on behalf of the people of Oregon. 

Q. How do you plan to address the large backlog of election-related complaints?


I am currently unaware of any publicly announced efforts to address elections-related complaints, other than to open new Al surveillance programs intended to target members of the public holding “unfavorable opinions”; outright dismissal of “certain” claims as invalid; and adulatory social media “denial campaigns.” As the election system is under the direct supervision of the secretary of state, any concerns which come directly from the Oregon public must absolutely be prioritized. As secretary of state, I will open an immediate process for review of all backlogs. Starting internally, I will broaden the scope of investigation pertaining to credible election-related concerns on behalf of the people of Oregon, forwarding any findings of unethical and illegal activity to the attorney general’s office and the Department of Justice for the appropriate actions.