State Sen. Rick Metsger, one of four Democrats trying to win their party's nomination for Oregon secretary of state, dropped in at the Source office this morning for a chat, and The EYE was left wondering: "Why should we be electing anybody to this job?"
Nothing against Metsger - he seems like a nice guy, a personable guy, an intelligent guy. He's been a pretty good state senator, as far as we know, and he'd probably do a good job as secretary of state. But should Oregonians have to pick a secretary of state through a partisan election?
Among his/her other responsibilities, the secretary of state has to oversee elections and decide which voter initiatives qualify for the ballot. Both of those functions are fraught with possibilities for the exercise of partisanship.
Metsger, who has a background as a TV news anchor and reporter, also told us he'd use his communication skills to publicize the work of the secretary of state's audits division, which produces reports on how efficiently (or otherwise) state government is performing. The possibilities for using that power to make one's own party look good or embarrass the opposition are too obvious to need pointing out.
The Oregon Republicans are expected to field, at best, a token candidate for secretary of state, so the winner of the May primary - either Metsger or one of three other state senators, Brad Avakian of Bethany, Kate Brown of Portland and Vicki Walker of Eugene - probably will end up with the job. Metsger, whose 26th senatorial district extends farther east than any of the three others - stretching all the way from the outskirts of Clackamas to Hood River - says he'll be making more appearances on this side of the state. We like that. We also like his promise to observe the tradition of not taking campaign contributions while the legislature is in its "emergency" session next month.
And Metsger has signed on former Portland Trailblazer great Bill Walton as his campaign chairman. We like that too, although unfortunately Walton was too busy being an ESPN sports broadcaster to accompany Metsger on his swing through Bend.
But we'd like it even more if Metsger and his rivals were running in a non-partisan race, as candidates for the judiciary do. The job of a judge requires political impartiality, and the job of secretary of state should too.