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Avakian, Richardson set for showdown

PORTLAND — Oregon voters on Tuesday gave state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian the Democratic nod to square off against former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson for secretary of state — the second-most powerful position behind the governor — in November.

With the race's five partisan candidates spending roughly $2.6 million spent since last year, it was the hardest-fought statewide race on the primary ballot.

Avakian faced a tough primary race against two prominent members of the Oregon Legislature — Rep. Val Hoyle, who came in a close second Tuesday night, and Sen. Richard Devlin.

Democrats have dominated the state secretary post for three solid decades.

In the general election, Avakian faces a seasoned opponent in Richardson, a Central Point Republican who ran against former Gov. John Kitzhaber two years ago. Richardson easily clinched the Republican primary against Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken on Tuesday.

In the gubernatorial race, five little-known challengers were no match against incumbent Kate Brown, who overwhelmingly clinched the Democratic nomination. It marks her first run for the post she inherited early last year when Kitzhaber stepped down.

Brown in November will face Republican oncologist Bud Pierce, who defeated businessman Allen Alley, marking his second failed attempt at the gubernatorial nomination.

The Democratic race for secretary of state, however, was the arguably the most exciting in an otherwise sleepy Oregon primary, and the outcome had been largely unpredictable until Tuesday's results began rolling in. Both Devlin and Hoyle received several endorsements from their colleagues in the Legislature, while Avakian built a war-chest of donations from his union backers that was topped by Hoyle in the last few weeks.

The $860,000 raised by Hoyle's campaign since last year was by far the most of any candidate on both sides of the political aisle. About 40 percent of that money, or $350,000, came from just two single donations within two days in late April.

The largest of the two, $250,000, came from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, citing Hoyle's role in helping pass Oregon's 2015 gun sales background check law — marking the biggest single contribution to a state secretary candidate that ignited a slew of attacks by her Democratic opponents.

The three Democrats then spent the final days of campaigning doling out substantial chunks of money to attack each other in ads, especially Avakian, who sent a fundraising email drawing attention to it with the headline "Wall Street Billionaire tries to buy Oregon's Democracy."

Devlin called the move shocking because he said Hoyle has claimed she'll get big money out of Oregon politics. Hoyle's campaign defended the contribution, saying she's built a rapport with Bloomberg's office after several months of regular communication on gun reform issues.

In the gubernatorial race, Brown seemed so confident of victory over her five Democratic challengers that she barely campaigned.

Brown lists raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing paid sick leave for workers, increasing education funding by 9 percent and signing in a law that will eliminate coal power in Oregon as among her major accomplishments in her 14 months in office.

Brown's hand-picked successor as secretary of state, Jeanne Atkins, made it clear when she took the job that she did not plan to run for a full term.