Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, 69, died last night from brain cancer.
Now, as Richardson's family prepares for his funeral, the political question animating the Capitol is what happens next. State law calls for Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, to appoint Richardson's successor.
Last year, when it became clear that Richardson's health was declining significantly, Brown's spokesman, Chris Pair, told WW and other publications that in the event of Richardson's death, Brown would appoint a Republican, as the law requires, however she intended to select a person who would commit to not seeking re-election.
In a statement this morning, Brown paid tribute to Richardson.
"Regardless of what side of the aisle his colleagues sat on, we all knew Dennis' kind heart guided his career of service to the people of Oregon," Brown said. "His reputation for perseverance not only guided him through the fight with cancer, it also gave us all reassurance that he was fighting cancer with the same determination he brought to work every day."
Brown's office also reiterated that she will select somebody from Richardson's party to replace him, as required by law. Brown has said, however, that she will select somebody who does not intend to run for the office.
"Governor Brown has decided to consider appointees from the Republican party who commit to not entering the 2020 election for Secretary of State, as she did in 2015 when selecting her own successor," Brown's office said.
That would eliminate from consideration anybody who might use the appointment to govern aggressively while in office or serve as a rival to Democratic candidates in future election.
Brown did the same thing in 2015, when she became governor after the resignation of her predecssor, former Gov. John Kitzhaber. To replace herself, Brown named Jeanne Atkins, a longtime aide to U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Atkins agreed not to run for election to the office in 2016.
Former state Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), who ran Richardson's 2016 campaign for secretary of state, expressed concerns about Brown's plan.
"Unlike the process for replacing a legislator, whereby party leaders select three to five candidates for the nominating process and elected county commissioners have the final say, Governor Brown has no statutory bar for how she selects a replacement for Secretary of State" Parrish said in a statement. "Anything less than allowing [GOP] party leaders to select the nominating pool would violate the spirit of the law, ignoring the standard process we routinely use for replacing lawmakers. Political favoritism has no role in replacing Secretary Richardson."