electionlineWeekly Runs Down 2020 Secretary of State Contests

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Election Day 2020 is just eight days away, and the latest issue of electionlineWeekly has a rundown of the races to select secretaries of state and chief election offices nationwide. electionline’s Mindy Moretti has more:

The top elections official spot is on the ballot in seven states this November.

Of the seven races — Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — three of the seats are open. In Montana, incumbent Secretary of State Corey Stapleton chose not to run again. In Oregon, incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno is not running after being appointed to the role. And in Utah, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox is running for governor.

This is just a brief look at all the candidates with links to their campaign websites where available.

Missouri
First-term incumbent Republican Jay Ashcroft is facing Democratic challenger Yinka Faleti. There are several minor party candidates on the ballot too including Paul Venable (Constitution Party), Paul Lehmann (Green Party) and Carl Herman Freese (Libertarian Party).

Ashcroft was first elected to office in 2016. His campaign website does not appear to have been updated from 2016, but at the time he reported having a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri at Rolla. He worked for  Missouri-based defense contractor before teaching engineering at St. Louis Community College. He received his JD from St. Louis University Law School which was followed by work at two private firms including his father’s. In 2016 he ran on passing voter photo ID in Missouri. While the state does require some proof of identity to vote, it is not a strict photo ID state.

Faleti immigrated to the United States from Nigeria when he was seven. He graduated as valedictorian of his junior high school in Florida. In lieu of his last two years of high school, Yinka attended and graduated from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. From there, he accepted an appointment to and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served in the active duty United States Army as a combat arms officer in tank units for over six years. Yinka attained the rank of Captain after two deployments overseas to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring prior to 9/11 and Operation Enduring Freedom in response to 9/11. He received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and served as the senior vice president of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. Most recently he was executive director of Forward Through Ferguson.

Montana
Incumbent Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (R) chose not to seek re-election so Democrat Bryce Bennett will face Republican Christi Jacobsen for the seat.

Bennett is a 5th generation Montanan and state senator. Prior to serving in the Senate, Bennett was a member of the Montana House of Representative and served at the minority whip from 2015 to 2016 and in the 2013-14 session served as the minority caucus leader. He has sponsored several elections-related bills while in the Senate including SB113 that would allow either a driver’s license or the last four of a Social Security number to register to vote and allowing counties to pay for polling locations in certain circumstances.

Jacobsen, who is also a native Montanan, is currently deputy secretary of state. She educated in Montana receiving a degree from Carroll College and a master’s degree in public administration from University of Montana. She began her career in the telecom industry. Her current duties in the secretary of state’s office include working to replace the IT elections system.

Oregon
In Oregon, Incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R), who was appointed by Governor Kate Brown (D) after the death of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R), is not seeking election to the position. Democrat Shemia Fagan will face Republican Kim Thatcher. There are also two third party candidates on the ballot, Libertarian Kyle Markley and Pacific Green Party candidate Nathalie Paravicini.

Fagan served in the Oregon House of Representative from 2013-2017 and is currently a state senator. Fagan graduated from Northwest Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion in 2003. She received a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2009. In elementary school, Fagan was the first girl in Oregon to win a statewide chess championship.

Thatcher served in the Oregon House from 2005-2014 before being elected to the Senate where she has served since 2015. Thatcher attended Portland State University. Her professional experience includes being the owner/operator of Highway Specialties and owner/president of KT Contracting Company.

 

Utah
In Utah, the lieutenant governor serves as the state’s top elections official. Incumbent Spencer Cox is seeking the governor’s office leaving the lieutenant governor seat open. Democrat Karina Andelin Brown will face Republican Deirdre Henderson. Also in the ballot will be Wayne Hill (Independent American Party of Utah), Barry Evan Short (Libertarian Party), and two write-in candidates.

Brown has a bachelor’s in family studies and human development from Arizona State University and a master’s in human, environmental and consumer resources from Eastern Michigan University. She is currently enrolled in the Harvard Kennedy School. Brown is president of the Friends of the Cache County Children’s Justice Center Board. She also serves on the Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is Co-Chair of the Cache Chamber Legislative Affairs Committee. She is a Planning Commissioner for the city of Nibley, Utah. And she is the co-founder of the Cache Valley United for Change organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement. She is a Governing Board Member of Logan Regional Hospital.

Henderson is serving as the running mate of current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. She is currently a state senator, a role she was first elected to in 2012. Prior to running for public office, Henderson served as Political Director and Campaign Manager for Congressman Jason Chaffetz. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University.

 

Vermont
In Vermont, incumbent Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) is facing off against Republican H. Brooke Paige. Cris Ericson of the Vermont Progressive Party and Independent Pamala Smith are also seeking the seat.

Condos was first elected to the secretary of state’s office in 2010. Before that he served in the state Senate from 2001 to 2009. Condos was born in Orange, New Jersey, and raised in Burlington and South Burlington. He attended South Burlington High School and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1974.  Condos’ professional experience includes working for a Vermont grocery distribution company and Vermont Gas Systems – a publicly-regulated utility.

Paige has run for office multiple times through the years in Vermont and is currently also running for attorney general.  He earned his B.A. in business administration from the University of Delaware. After graduating, he worked as a food service manager and then in sales for a pharmaceutical laboratory. He went on to own and operate a newsstand business. Paige is a member of the Ephemera Society of America.

Washington
In the Evergreen State Incumbent Kim Wyman (R) is facing off against challenger Democrat Gael Tarleton.

Wyman was first elected to secretary of state in 2012. Before that, she served as the Thurston County auditor from 2001-2013. Wyman received a B.A. from California State University, an M.P.A. from Troy State University, and an Honorary Doctorate in leadership from City University. Wyman was certified as an elections/registration administrator (CERA) for Washington state. She served as treasurer for the National Association of Secretaries of State and president of the Washington State Association of County Auditors.

 

Tarleton is currently a member of the Washington House of Representatives. She was first election to the House in 2012. She served as the majority floor leader from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that she served as a commissioner for the Port of Seattle from 2008-2013. Tarleton received a B.S. and an M.A. from Georgetown University. She was a senior defense intelligence analyst for the Pentagon focusing on port security.

West Virginia
If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu when looking at the candidates for The Mountain State’s top elections official it’s because you sort of are. The 2020 contest pits incumbent Mac Warner (R) against challenger Natalie Tennant (D). The roles were reversed in 2016.

Warner was first elected to office in 2016. Warner is a native West Virginian and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Warner served in the Army for 23 years as a JAG Corps officer. In Afghanistan, Warner ran an office that was in charge of mentoring senior government officials in rule of law. Warner received his J.D. from West Virginia University. He also has a Master in military law from the Army Judge Advocate General’s school and a Master in international law from the University of Virginia.

 

Tennant served as West Virginia’s secretary of state from 2009-2017. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication both from West Virginia University. During her undergrad she served as the first female Mountaineer mascot in the school’s history. Tennant worked as a television anchor and reporter at WBOY-TV in Clarksburg and WCHS-TV in Charleston. Prior to taking office in January 2009, she and her husband co-owned Wells Media Group LLC, a business that specialized in media training and video production. She has also served on the board of directors for the American Heart Association and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Thanks as always to Mindy for this excellent round-up; while these contests don’t get the same attention as the Presidential race or the fight for control of Congress, these elected officials can and do play a large role in the conduct of elections in their states.  I know #electiongeeks will be paying close attention to these races to get a sense of what could be in store for the elections community in 2021 and beyond. Stay tuned …

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