Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson's battle with brain cancer is taking a serious toll.
On Monday, Richardson, 69, sent an email to his two colleagues on the State Land Board, Gov. Kate Brown and state Treasurer Tobias Read, telling them that he was not well enough to attend a scheduled Oct. 16 meeting and did not expect to attend future meetings, either.
"Despite my cancer treatment, I remain focused on the core functions of my office and am working with my executive leadership team daily to provide direction," Richardson wrote in an email at 4:30 Monday afternoon.
"In order to focus my time and energy, I have decided to reduce public appearances. Under Section 5, Article VIII of the Oregon Constitution and ORS 177.040, my Deputy Secretary of State will attend Land Board meetings and vote on my behalf for the duration of my cancer treatment."
Coming late in the afternoon the day before Tuesday's Land Board meeting, scheduled for 10 am in Salem, the news was clearly unexpected.
The Department of State Lands manages 780,000 acres of publicly-owned land for the benefit of the Common School Fund, in addition to the bottoms and banks of the state's navigable rivers. The three-member Land Board's decisions can involve controversial, big money decisions, such as the aborted sale in 2017 of the Elliott State Forest.
Richardson's battle with brain cancer comes less than two years after his upset 2016 victory over Democrat Brad Avakian, a win that made him the first Republican to win state-wide office in Oregon since 2002.
As secretary of state, he is not only a member of the Land Board but also the state's top elections official, responsible for overseeing a November ballot that features a close governor's race and a slate of contentious ballot measures.
WW first reported that Richardson's apparent illness at the last Land Board meeting on Aug. 14 raised concerns after he struggled to speak when called upon. In response to WW's questions, Richardson released an Aug. 28 video assuring constituents he was on the job but working remotely.
Should ill health cause Richardson to step down before the end of his term in 2021, the governor would appoint a successor until the next general election.
Richardson's chief of staff, Deb Royal, was not immediately available for comment.