I long for the days when Secretary of State was just a political job. 

Hacks.  That’s the offensive word for politicians who want a resting place.  Who want a public salary.  Who want to give away jobs to their friends.  At worst, they find a way to steal money.  At best, they do no harm.  Secretary of State used to be a good place for a hack.

Recently, Secretaries of State have done harm.  In most states, they are in charge of elections.  Republican Secretaries of State have discovered voter suppression.  Like President Trump, they believe voter fraud exists.  Or they pretend they believe.  Really, they want to prevent poor people from voting, Democrats from voting.  Those who do believe are ideologues against voting.

If they are to avoid being hacks, secretaries of state should be advocates for democracy.  They should find ways to encourage every possible legal voter to vote.

In response to the Republican ideologues against voting, there are Democrats who advocate for democracy.  We have a new kind of contest for Secretary of State.   These Democrats range from progressive state legislators to a tech wunderkind.  Hacks, they are not..

Lean DemocraticMichiganDemocrat Jocelyn Benson is a graduate of Wellesley College.  She has a Master’s Degree from Oxford and a law degree from Harvard.  At forty, she is a member of the next generation.  Michigan, she says, is last in the country in political transparency and accountability.  Benson was a Dean at Wayne State University and wrote a book on the role of the Secretary of State.  If elected, she says “nobody will wait more than 30 minutes to renew their driver’s license, register their vehicle, or cast a vote.”  She would require instant reporting of all political donations. She would make a difference. Her opponent for this Open Republican Seat is Mary Treder Lang, a CPA and a member of the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents.  She retreats from some of the anti-voting positions of the outgoing, term-limited Secretary of State.  She would forego a requirement that voters check a box affirming their citizenship. She proposes different colored drivers’ licenses for non-citizens. Their non-voting status would be easily recognized.   She opposes same day voter registration.  Too much work for the clerks.  Look for https://votebenson.com/ and consider a donation to Jocelyn Benson for Michigan Secretary of State.

Jocelyn Benson won 53 – 44.

Toss UpIowaIowa is 89% non-Hispanic white.  Three percent black.  Thirty-two year old Democrat Deidre DeJear is Iowa’s first black nominee by a major political party for a state-wide office.  She came to Drake University from Oklahoma and stayed. Her deepest roots are in Mississippi where, as a consequence of the civil rights movement, her grandmother became Yazoo County election commissioner.  DeJear recalls working for her grandmother — at 6’5″ she was hard to say no to.As a college senior, DeJear started a marketing firm.   She stayed with her firm as it grew into a small business. She stayed connected to politics.  She worked as a field coordinator for the Obama campaign.  As Secretary of State, she promises to make voter registration easier.  She promises to increase the percentage of voters voting in primaries and elections.  DeJearcriticizes incumbent Republican Paul Pate for supporting and implementing a photo ID voting requirements.DeJearhas become a sensation.  Potential presidential candidates seek her own when they visit Iowa.  She gets riotous applause at Democratic events.  She is raising more money than the incumbent.  She will need every dime.  The conventional response to her candidacy should not be dismissed.  She won her primary by two points.  Paul Pate is an Iowa politician.  He could win the election.  Find Deidre DeJear at https://www.dejearforiowa.com/ and make a donation.

Deidre DeJear lost 53 – 45.

KansasDemocrat Brian “Bam” McClendon is not in it for the money.  Co-Founder of Keyhole, which become Google Earth after it was purchased by Google.   Former Vice President of Google.  Former Uber Executive. He has made his money.  He is a tech guy and a business guy.  He insists he has no interest in running for higher office.  He is from Lawrence, Kansas.  He did some work for the Kansas Democratic Party to look at voter registration issues.  He was dismayed at how difficult outgoing Secretary of State and Gubernatorial candidate Kris Kaubach had made it to register to vote.  Using a federal form to bypass Kaubach’s complexities, McClendon created a website that allows people to register to vote in three minutes or less.  10,000 people have used the website. 

McClendon says that the Secretary of State’s office has a staff that understands their responsibility is to help people vote, not stop them.  They need leadership.  A leader who wants people to vote.  A leader who will train workers to prevent Russian hacking.  A leader who will help them encourage early voting. Getting people to vote, he says, is a marketing problem.  Voting is not his only issue.  In Kansas, the Secretary of State’s office also registers businesses. He promises to make life simpler for business, too.

Scott Schwab is a Republican State Representative running for Secretary of State. He has served as Speaker Pro Tem and chaired the Elections and Insurance Committees.  People in Kansas know who he is.  His son was killed in a gruesome water slide accident that gained national attention.   He would approach the Secretary of State role with his general political sensibilities.  He dismisses homosexuality as a life style choice.  He opposes medical marijuana, suggesting that it is like potato chips.  People can’t just have one.  Sometimes he gets it right.  Despite lobbying by the Kochs, he opposed repealing Kansas’ renewable energy standards.  He told the Kochs he needed Kansas businessmen to support repeal if he was going to support it.  Find Brian “Bam” McClendon at https://bam4kansas.com/.  Consider a small donation. Outside support, even for a self-funder, demonstrates enthusiasm.

Brian McClendon lost 53 – 43.

OhioDemocrat Kathleen Clyde has spent time out side of Ohio twice.  Her undergraduate degree is from Wesleyan in Connecticut.  She was at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.  Otherwise, she has been in Ohio.  She was the valedictorian of James Garfield High School in Garrettsville.  What could be more Ohio than that?   Her law degree is from Ohio State where she was an editor of the Law Review. Pretty Ohio, too. Clyde’s professional career is in Ohio. She was the Ohio House speaker’s legal counsel, worked in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, served as President of the Public Interest Law Foundation, now represents Kent in the Ohio House of Representatives. During the Secretary of State campaign, Clyde has said she would end the incumbent’s a policy of purging voters from the rolls who had not voted for six consecutive years.  She would change to a uniform paper ballot system.   She would move toward replacing early voting with postal voting.The incumbent Secretary of State is running for Lt. Governor.  Frank LaRose, an Ohio State Senator, is the Republican candidate for Secretary of State.  As a Senator he introduced legislation to prevent women from having an abortion after receiving a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome for a fetus.  He voted for a bill to limit collecting bargaining for public employees that was subsequently overturned by referendum.  He agonized over his vote, he says. No agony over his support for a law that would eliminate Ohio’s so-called “Golden Week” when voters register and vote on the same day.  As a candidate for Secretary of State, he has flip-flopped toward more moderate positions. For instance, he initially supported taking people off the roles as the incumbent did.  Now he opposes it.  Find Kathleen Clyde at https://www.kathleenclyde.com/ and make a donation.

Kathleen Clyde lost 51 – 47.

NevadaDemocrat Nelson Araujo is in a competitive race.  Nevada has a lot of those.  Jacky Rosen for US Senator.  Steve Sisolak for Governor. Secretary of State.

.Araujo’sis a story for our times. His mother escaped from the Civil War in El Salvador in the 1980s.  She came to the United States.  To Las Vegas.  She worked as as hotel housekeeper.  She really worked for her children.  Nelson was the first in his family to graduate from high school, the first to graduate from college, the first to work for Harry Reid, the first to win elective office.  He is a state assemblyman.   He is exquisitely aware of the importance of the right to vote.  He is similarly aware of what it takes to start a business.  Another young candidate, he has a vision of how to modernize Nevada’s voting system.  He would make it easier to register to vote, easier to actually vote,  easier to start a business. His opponent is the sixty-six year old Barbara Cegavski.  She is an ALEC.  An ideologue.  ALEC’s representative in Nevada, she advocates for the deeply conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.  They attempt to spread their agenda, their proposed legislation to state legislators.  As Secretary of State, she favors photo IDs and opposes same day voter registration and voting.   Find Nelson Araujo at http://nelsonaraujonv.com/and donate.

Nelson Araujo lost 49 – 48.

Lean RepublicanArkansasPromises.  Promises.  John Thurston is the Republican candidate for Secretary of State, an open Republican seat.  He is completing two terms as land commissioner for Arkansas.  Responsible for the sale of tax delinquent properties, he explained that he would serve the public, including those whose property had to be sold, with care and compassion.  His care and compassion was a product of his experience as a pastor. Susan Inman, the Democratic nominee has criticized Thurston’s $30,000 purchase of a bass fishing boat as Commissioner.   Thurston explained, despite the fishing equipment, it wasn’t used for bass fishing.   He further explained the boat wasn’t used, but six times.  inmanmight have commented that would come to $6,000 per use — for fishing or not. Thurston has made promises about the Secretary as State job.  He would do it so well that constituents could live their lives, raise their kids, pursue their careers, and enjoy recreation without having to be concerned with the Secretary of State’s office.  He doesn’t say it quite this way, but they might not notice if he bought a boat. Here is what Inman noticed.   During early voting in one constituency her name wasn’t on the ballot.  She got that corrected, too late for a few hundred voters.   Inman really does know how to do this job.  She was Director of the State’s Electoral Division for a former Secretary of State.    Inman is a local figure.  When her party was out of state office, she oversaw elections at the county level.  Inman is an international figure.  She has served as an ingternationl election monitor for the last fifteen years.  Find Susan Inman at https://susaninmanforarkansas.com/ and donate. 

Susan Inman lost 61 – 37.

GeorgiaThe incumbent Secretary of State is the Republican candidate for Governor.  He is the Secretary of State who is holding more than 50,000 registrations because they are missing a middle initial when they should have one — or the reverse.  He is the Secretary of State under whose watch a busload of African Americans going to the polls for early voting was turned around.  Someone claimed that organizing the bus at their senior center was improperly political.  That single bus has been replaced by ten.

John Barrow, the Democratic candidate is a Georgia aristocrat.  He is the great, great, grandnephew of the man Barrow County is named after.  He descends from a nineteenth century Georgia governor.  His father was a Judge.  At the University of Georgia, he was a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society.  Went to Harvard Law School and came back.  He served five terms in the US Congress, survived two redistrictings that targeted him.  When Barrow was defeated in 2014, he was the last white Democratic Congressman in the deep south. In Congress, Barrow was a conservative Democrat.  He opposed the Affordable Care Act and received substantial support from the NRA.  Although he supported the Defense of Marriage Act, in general he favored gay rights.  He was also generally pro-choice.  He may be looking for a good political spot.  He is too much of a Georgia aristocrat to be a hack.  He is certainly no ideologue. Republican Brad Raffensberger is no hack.  He is an ideologue. Start to  click on his website. You will see a note that says he is the only candidate with a 100% rating by the faith and freedom coalition.  A civil engineer, he has been in the state legislature, Raffensberger has three things to say about running for Secretary of State.  1) He believes only legal American citizens should vote.   Believing that non-citizens frequently try to vote, he will strengthen the voter ID law.  2) He will watch for voter fraud — another widespread problem, he thinks. So he will continue the incumbents work keeping voting rolls “clean and updated.”  3) He supports paper ballot verification. 

We appreciate the third promise.  When there is a reason for a recount, there should be ballots to count.   Do not assume, however, he would be an impartial Secretary of State.  He would emulate the incumbent and use his office to oppose Democrats. Find John Barrow at https://www.barrowforgeorgia.com/ and donate. 

John Barrow lost the general election runoff 52 — 48