In case you haven't handed your ballot off to a West Linn canvasser or mailed it in (with proper postage, please), here are my views on the statewide races.
The secretary of state is the least powerful of the statewide elected offices, but the most visible, apart from the governor, because of the SoS's prominent position in the Voter's Pamphlets. The three main duties of the SoS are to oversee elections, manage the corporations division, and audit other state agencies. Under the incumbent, Kate Brown, the office has performed its audit function well, most notably by identifying for the Department of Revenue 66,000 Oregonians who hadn't filed tax returns for 2007, and has managed the corporations division acceptably. A series of elections howlers, however, suggests that it's time for a new secretary of state. First is the ongoing skirmishing over enforcing ORS 254.483, the law that requires county clerks to destroy unused ballots promptly after 8:00 p.m. on election day. Ms. Brown does not like that law, and her office has taken the position that the county clerks should ignore it, but the legislature has repeatedly turned down proposals to amend it, including one introduced at Ms. Brown's request in 2011. It remains the law today, and the Secretary of State should be enforcing it. Second is her office bungling (the Oregonian's word) the enforcement of the election laws that prohibit public agencies for campaigning for or against ballot measures. This spring came her office's mess-up of the Labor Commissioner's race, which it scheduled for the May primary and then yanked from the ballot after only two candidates filed, based on its misreading of state law.
Newest and strangest is the fresh news that the state's elections director, Steven Trout, e-mailed the Postal Service to ask the Service not to deliver ballots with no or insufficient postage to the county clerks. Mr. Trout apparently said that by delivering the ballots to the county clerks, the Postal Service was violating Oregon law and the federal constitution. The Postmaster General sent back a pointed letter on October 31 stating, in Isaac's translation, that (1) the job of the Postal Service is to deliver the mail, especially ballots; (2) Oregon law can't bar the Postal Service from delivering the mail; and (3) if Oregon doesn't want to count ballots without postage, it isn't going to cozen the Postal Service into doing its dirty work by throwing those ballots away instead of delivering them. Oregon has long prided itself on having high voter turnout, and the secretary of state is the leading cheerleader for getting out the vote. It beggars understanding (at least it beggars my understanding) to figure out why anyone from the secretary of state's office would ask the Postal Service to suppress cast ballots.
The office needs a change immediately. Of the several challengers, Knute Buehler is the most likely to win. He is a Bend physician and founder of a clinic that employs 170 persons, according to his website, which suggests that he has some management and supervisory experience. He receives my endorsement and my vote.
I am passing over the attorney general's race, partly because I've known both candidates a long time. Ellen Rosenblum, who has held the post for the last few months since John Kroger's sudden resignation, is eminently qualified by experience and temperament to hold this post. Her Republican opponent, James Buchal, won the nomination on a write-in campaign after being recruited by party activists when no one filed in the Republican primary. Mr. Buchal brings an unusual pedigree for a last-minute recruited candidate: a degree from Harvard and two from Yale, experience as a Wall Street lawyer, and more recently a law practice focusing on energy, natural resources, and public lands, all issues of major important to our state. One of my few criticisms of Ms. Rosenblum is that she is the only statewide major party candidate this year who has refused to debate or even appear jointly with the opposing candidate, except once, for the endorsement interview of the Salem Statesman. Ms. Rosenblum and Mr. Buchal would each serve with distinction. Which one I voted for must remain a secret.
In the third statewide race, Brad Avakian, the nonpartisan (which means Democratic) incumbent Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, faces Bruce Starr, the nonpartisan (which means Republican) challenger. Mr. Starr came across as a very nice guy when I heard him speak to a small group not long ago. Mr. Avakian is more direct. I don't always agree with Mr. Avakian's policies, and we're of rather different political temperaments, but I believe that he has a better understanding of the position, and its limits, than does Mr. Starr. Mr. Avakian is the better choice, and he earned my vote.