When James Manning was sworn into office as an Oregon state senator in 2016, he says he had a few goals in mind: to “improve the quality of life in the present and lay out a pathway forward for our future generations where they don’t have to go through some of the missteps and inequities that have already existed.”
Manning is taking those goals with him as he announced his run for Oregon secretary of state in the 2024 election Wednesday, Sept. 13 at the Historic Mims House in Eugene. If Manning wins election, he would be the first person of color to be elected Oregon secretary of state.
As secretary of state, Manning would be the chief elections officer as well as be in charge of administering public records and auditing public accounts. Oregon doesn’t have a lieutenant governor, making the secretary of state next in line to succeed the governor.
Manning has been a public servant most of his life. He served in the U.S. Army for 24 years and worked on a variety of nonprofit and education boards such as the Pearl Buck Center and the Bethel School District Budget Committee. He later became a state senator, representing District 7 for the past seven years. For Manning, running for secretary of state seemed like the next step in helping establish more stable leadership in Oregon’s government that would support his overall goals as a public servant.
“I think with a stable leadership, with family values and a strong moral background, I am the best candidate for that,” Manning tells Eugene Weekly.
The secretary of state position has seen turnover since Jeanne Atkins retired in 2017. Most notably, with former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s decision to take on consulting work for one of the state’s largest cannabis companies and Democratic donors. Fagan’s audits show her suggesting that Oregon needs to loosen cannabis regulations, causing speculation as to whether those audits were influenced by her consulting job. Fagan resigned last May 2023. LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who was appointed to fill the vacancy, has said she is not running in the 2024 election. Early Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read of Beaverton also announced his run for secretary of state.
The high turnover in the position over the past few years, along with what Manning calls a “distrust in public officials,” has inspired him to build his campaign on stable and strong leadership that will last. “What’s most important is to restore the trust and integrity in that office,” he says.
Manning also wants to put expanding election opportunities at the forefront of his campaign. He is very vocal about protecting election workers in every county in Oregon as well as supporting mail-in ballots so those in rural areas can vote without having to take a day off of work to do so.
“I will be working across the state to come up with more ideas for how we can give everyone access to the ballot,” he says.
One decision relating to the ballot that states across the country may be handling is whether former President Donald Trump will be allowed on the ballot for the 2024 election. Manning says that he is aware the 14th Amendment might bar Trump from being on the ballot, but he is waiting for judicial clarification before commenting any further.
One of Manning’s primary goals while working in the Senate was to create a statewide, comprehensive health care board for all that is appointed by the governor and housed under the Department of Consumer and Business Services. Manning has been leading the charge with Senate Bill 1089, which would establish a board that would be in charge of designing an administrative structure for a universal health care plan. Manning says that this plan is in its final stages in the Senate.
“I have been working on this bill for seven years and I am very pleased with the direction that it continues to move forward in,” he says.
In addition to working on health care, Manning has a track record of working on homelessness task forces in Eugene, and he has enacted and signed a number of bills relating to gun control, including HB 2005, which defines “undetectable firearms” and punishes manufacturing and selling them.
“I feel as now the next step for conserving the people of Oregon is the secretary of state,” Manning says. “I have a proven record of caring and sharing and bipartisanship. It’s time to restore the confidence and trust.”