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'I'm Dennis Richardson. I'm the new secretary of state'

Tom Adams from KVAL News (left) interviewed Dennis Richardson December 29, 2016, a day before the Republican from Central Point took the oath of office as Oregon's secretary of state. (SBG)

SALEM, Ore. - Friday morning marks a changing of the guard in state government at the Capitol.

"I'm Dennis Richardson," the Republican from Central Point said to a visitor Thursday. "I'm the new secretary of state as of tomorrow."

And that's a landmark moment in Oregon politics for the GOP.

  • Richardson is the first Republican elected by a statewide vote since Sen. Gordon Smith won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2002.

  • He is the first Republican elected to a state office since Jack Roberts won election as Labor Commissioner in 1994. That job later became a non-partisan position.

  • And he is the first Republican to serve as secretary of state since Norma Paulus was elected in November 1976. She left office in January 1985.

Richardson said a campaign based on solutions was the key to his victory November 8.

"I know what I said on the campaign trail about accountability and transparency and trust, and I'm going to take seriously the promises I've made," he said.

Richardson said one of his early goals is to set up a special forces team of auditors.

"A special auditor team of 6 to 8 auditors, who when there's a fire will run to the fire and not away from it," he said.

It's a team that Richardson says will get a faster jump on audits of controversial programs or ones that have had huge cost overruns.

As secretary of state, Richardson will also serve as Oregon's chief elections officer and run the corporations division.

"The corporations division needs to welcome businesses and help remove red tape," he said.

And looming ahead in 2 years is another election for Oregon governor.

Gov. Kate Brown won election last month to serve out the final 2 years of John Kitzhaber's term.

Kitzhaber won a historic 4th term as governor in 2014 - over Republican challenger Richardson.

Kitzhaber resigned early into his term in 2015.

Brown, as the secretary of state, succeeded him - the 9th time in Oregon history that the job has changed hands by succession.

Brown's successor, Jeanne Atkins, said she would not seek election, setting up the 2016 race between Richardson and Democrat Brad Avakian, the state's Labor Commissioner.

But the job of governor will be back on the ballot in 2018.

Will Richardson seek his party's nomination?

"No," he said Thursday. "My eyes are focused on tomorrow, getting sworn in and then going to work on Tuesday."

Richardson said it has been a smooth transition since Election Day, a trend he hopes will signal a higher level of accountability in all of state government.

"The system works if you have people willing to leave their homes and come here and serve," he said, "for the right reasons."

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