Kotek Will Wait to Appoint New Secretary of State Until After May 16 Election

The governor is looking to fill the second-in-command position after the abrupt resignation of Shemia Fagan last week over a political scandal.

COMRADES: Tina Kotek (center) celebrates a primary election win. (Blake Benard)

Gov. Tina Kotek will wait until after the May 16 election to appoint a new secretary of state, following the abrupt resignation of former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan last week. Fagan resigned one week after WW reported she had signed a private consulting contract with the owners of the embattled cannabis dispensary chain La Mota.

“Local elections are underway across the state, culminating in election day next week on May 16, and I do not want to distract from the important work of the staff in the Secretary of State’s Office and the elections team who are working to ensure the election goes smoothly and without disruption,” Kotek said in a statement. “Therefore, I will announce updates on my plans to appoint a new secretary of state after the election.”

Kotek has given no indication of whom she will appoint to replace Fagan, but names that have been swirling include State Treasurer Tobias Read, Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D- Portland), former Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, former Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, and former House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland).

Fagan resigned last Tuesday, likely ending what was once a promising political career. The contract she signed with the owners of La Mota stipulated that she be paid $10,000 a month and an additional $30,000 for every cannabis license obtained outside of Oregon and New Mexico. Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, the co-founders of La Mota, were prominent political donors to Fagan’s election ampaign. Fagan says they also were personal friends whom she met only after she decided to run for secretary of state in 2020.

Records obtained by WW two weeks ago show that Fagan allowed Cazares to edit the scope of a state audit of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, which regulates cannabis, that Fagan was supposed to oversee in her elected position. Once she took the contract with La Mota, Fagan recused herself from the audit. However, records show the audit was already in its final form by the time Fagan stepped away from it.

Two state investigations are ongoing into the audit and Fagan’s contract.

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