State Sen. Mark Hass on Tuesday officially launched his campaign to be Oregon’s next secretary of state.
After helping lead a victorious fight to better fund education, Hass said it’s time to move on to a higher office he’s long had eyes for.
“When we completed a major landmark in that area this year, I felt it was a natural place for me to pivot and look at this role,” he said.
Hass will continue to work as a senator and participate in the 2020 legislative session as he seeks the statewide office.
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“This is an office where the work effects every single person in this state, and it’s critical,” Hass told Salem Reporter Tuesday morning. “It needs someone strong there.”
When reached, Hass said he was closing out his email account in his “soon-to-be old job in the private sector” as he takes the next step in his long career of public service. In addition to being a lawmaker, Hass works as an account manager for advertising firm Cappelli Miles.
Hass said he’s long been interested in the functions of the secretary of state’s office, specifically audits, campaign finances and elections. But as a lawmaker, he has been deeply involved in the push for increased education funding.
Hass on Monday tweeted out a campaign ad in which he touts his work on the passage of the Student Success Act, a historic school funding package he championed. Hass said it was the toughest thing he’s done in his career.
Hass said if elected, he would make sure the $1 billion per year is used properly.
“The very first audit will be to ensure the student success function, the money and the fund, is all distributed as the legislature intended; to teachers and classrooms,” he said.
Hass started in the House in 2001 before being appointed to the Senate in 2007. He has largely focused on tax reform and education policy.
When asked who will take on that work when he leaves, Hass said there are several lawmakers who could fill that role after he leaves.
Hass previously worked as a TV journalist for 20 years. There, he said, he learned the importance of the audit function. Under his leadership, that would be a focus of the office, he said.
“I see audits as a way to realign state agencies’ intent from what they’re doing,” he said.
Hass is the second Democrat to announce his candidacy in what is shaping up to be a formidable primary. Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a central Oregon Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Greg Walden for his congressional seat, announced her interest earlier this summer.
Following the announcement, McLeod-Skinner sent out a news release welcoming Hass to the race and challenging him to several debates throughout the state.
Secretary of State Bev. Clarno has long said she will not run for election. She was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown when Dennis Richardson died in office.
Hass said he’s ready for a tough fight, and has not discussed his interest in the job with other Democrats rumored to be seeking the same position. Hass’ political action committee currently holds about $150,000 from his last election cycle.
Reporter Aubrey Wieber: [email protected] or 503-575-1251.