Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson dies after battling cancer

FILE -- Newly sworn in Secretary of State Dennis Richardson gives his acceptance speech at the Capitol in Salem, Oregon Dec. 30, 2016. (KATU File Photo)

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 69.

Oregon state officials said Richardson died at around 9 p.m. Tuesday at his home surrounded by family and friends.

Richardson announced in June 2018 that he was receiving treatment for brain cancer. He said he was diagnosed in May.

“I’m blessed and optimistic. We caught it early. I have a treatment plan in place, and I have an exceptional support system here at work and at home,” he said in a press release at the time.

During his treatment, Richardson continued serving as secretary as state.

In August 2018, Richardson gave an update saying the cancer treatment was working and in December he said the cancerous tumor had not grown recently.

Earlier in February, Richardson backed off his office hours due to the cancer treatment.

Richardson took office in January 2017. He was the first Republican elected to that office in nearly four decades. He and his team worked to improve the program business practices of audits, elections, archives, corporations and small businesses, and three administrative services divisions of the agency.

“Dennis’ focus on transparency, accountability, and integrity coupled with his uncompromising work ethic inspired staff to ‘up their games’ to move mountains,” his office said in a release.

Richardson’s personal motto was “Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus,” which means: Having been given much, what will you give in return?

Richardson served in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and worked a 30-year legal career with 19 years in public service. He is a father of nine and a grandfather of 31.

“Dennis leaves a legacy of always aiming high, expecting excellence, moving fast, and doing what is right for the people. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with such an incredible leader and wonderful friend. He will be greatly missed,” his office said.

Gov. Kate Brown ordered flags to be flown at half-staff.

"Regardless of what side of the aisle his colleagues sat on, we all knew Dennis' kind heart guided his career of service to the people of Oregon," she wrote on Twitter.

Brown said she'll appoint a successor to Richardson in the coming weeks. She said she'll choose a Republican, which is required by law but that she'll look for someone who will commit to not seeking re-election.

Richardson received accolades at the opening of the state House of Representatives Wednesday, where he served for 12 years.

After serving there, he launched a 2014 run for governor against incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber. He lost that race.

Former state Rep. Julie Parrish ran Richardson's successful 2016 campaign for Oregon secretary of state.

"We hadn't had a (Republican) secretary of state, you know, since I was in elementary school," she said in an interview. "So, it was a really big deal and then, you know, he's just such a man of integrity. And he got to work, rolled up his sleeves and even with cancer was really working right up to the very end."

Parrish said it was Richardson's time serving in Vietnam and the health consequences that Vietnam veterans had because of chemical exposure during the war that made him passionate about protecting air quality in Oregon.

As secretary of state, in June 2017, Richardson blocked President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission from accessing any voter information beyond what's available to the public.

Plans are being made for a public memorial. That will probably be held sometime next week.

Local politicians issued statements Wednesday morning after learning of Richardson's passing.

Statement from House GOP Leader Carl Wilson:

"We have suffered a great loss with the passing of Dennis Richardson. Dennis was a steadfast man who loved family, his country, the State of Oregon, and the people he served. This loss is a difficult one for us all. His death will be deeply mourned by all his former colleagues in the Oregon House of Representatives.”

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick:

“Dennis Richardson was a kind and decent man. He served his country with distinction in the military. He served his community of Southern Oregon and the State of Oregon with integrity and dedication. I had the pleasure of serving with Secretary Richardson in the Legislature for many years. He loved this state and we will miss him.”

Statement from Rep. Julie Parrish:

“Oregon lost a shining light in Secretary Richardson, whose commitment to the three principles of Accountability, Transparency, and Integrity in state government were unparalleled in anyone with whom I’ve ever served in public office,” Parrish stated. “In two years as our Secretary of State, he kept every campaign promise he made, proving Republicans have leadership solutions that work, and that elected officials should strive to do their work for all Oregonians, not just a political party.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown posted a statement on Twitter:

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off